King of the Ring 1997: Wrestlemania Preview

King of the Ring 1997
Date: June 8, 1997
Location: Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island
Attendance: 9,312
Commentators: Jim Ross, Vince McMahon

Welcome to the dark ages. The NWO is just killing the WWF at the moment and nothing at all is going right for Vince and company. Actually that’s not true, as we have a bald guy that turned face at Mania and is rapidly approaching the biggest star run of about three years in history. He’s got HBK tonight in a completely forgotten match. Other than that of course we have the tournament which is the final four again here which is how it should be on the PPV.

The main event is Farrooq vs. Taker for the title. And they wonder why they were getting their heads handed to them. The Border War is on at the moment and Canadian Stampede is next month, and for those of you that know about that, you know this is an awesome time when sadly no one was watching. Let’s get to it.

Oh apparently Shawn and Austin are the tag champions. Yeah I remember that really well. The intro is as basic as you could get but the music accompanying the pyro is really weird. It’s almost chilling and I love it. Ross says this is like the World Series or the Super Bowl. That’s just amusing.

King of the Ring SemiFinal: Ahmed Johnson vs. HHH

Now to get to this round, Ahmed already beat HHH, but he complained about having had a match that day already so he got another shot and beat Crush to get here. HHH was supposed to win the previous year and get the Austin push, but due to the MSG Incident, there was no one else to punish. HBK was champion and untouchable and Hall and Nash were leaving so HHH took the fall for it.

Johnson was just about to outlive his lifecycle here as a big deal as he would get hurt all the time and would gain too much weight to come back. For some reason Ahmed is on the poster for this show along with Taker, Austin and HBK which is just odd. Again I want to know, WHAT IS THE NEED FOR BRACKETS FOR FOUR PEOPLE??? What in the world happened to all of HHH’s money? Apparently he had a wrestling tutor. I want one of those!

Ahmed beats on him for a bit and then throws in a curtsey, which I don’t like as he’s supposed to more or less be a killing machine. It amazes me that HHH started off as such a tiny guy and now is about as big as Johnson. Vince says HHH knows all the tricks of the game. That’s just amusing. It will never cease to amaze me how different the careers of two wrestlers can go. Look at these two.

Who in the world would have guessed that HHH would be a first ballot hall of famer and Ahmed wouldn’t last another year? Ivan Putski trained Johnson. That clears up a lot of things. This is a pretty generic match although it’s not boring. HHH was really just getting the hang of his character and in ring style here and it shows. Ahmed is nothing but power and that shows even worse.

You can also see the beginnings of HHH’s muscle mass creeping in. He actually goes to the top for a double axe which works. They botch what looked like was supposed to be a back body drop but they saved it well enough I guess.

After Ahmed beats on him for a bit and sets for the Plunge, Chyna gets up on the apron to distract him. Granted I would think a shiny penny or a thing of cotton candy would distract Ahmed. It allows HHH to get a knee (shocking) to the back and the Pedigree (looked bad) for the pin.

Rating: C+. Eh, it did its job I guess. HHH wasn’t a jobber anymore as he was really starting to get a lot of what would come to define his character down here. Ahmed was on his way to bigger although I wouldn’t say better things due to injury, but we’ll get to that later on today. Also, HHH has the classical music for his theme here, which I’ve always loved.

We look at the brackets in case you’re intellectually challenged.

King of the Ring SemiFinals: Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler

Ok, seriously, what’s the second match? Did someone really think this was a good idea? Something tells me this isn’t going to go well. Foley is more or less a face now, but he’s still the freak that no one understands. He beat Vega and Lawler beat Goldust. Seriously, in mid 1997 Lawler was being kind of pushed? Seriously? I guess it makes sense as it helped Mankind’s face turn.

Just to further the brilliant booking, Mankind had to have a botch from the Nation of Domination to let him beat Savio. That’s just freaking stupid but then again, what do I know? Foley cuts a promo about being a King that Vince keeps laughing at for no apparent reason. Vince seriously needs to shut up half of the time. He does quote a few 50s songs so that helps a bit.

Lawler is with Pettingill who has to be on his way out at this point. He does his walking to the ring promo that he did last year which was awesome last year. It’s nowhere near as good this year but I think a big part of that is he didn’t have the same amount of time which messed things up a bit. He does rip into Foley with some good stuff though so there we are. Jerry is a freaking master on the mic.

People today need to pay attention to his old stuff as he’s getting great heat for some very basic insults. LEARN FROM HIM PEOPLE! To the shock of anyone that has no idea what they’re talking about, they start by brawling on the floor.

Lawler spends most of the match running as we get a Memphis and Lawler history lesson from out of absolutely nowhere, as Ross talks about Lawler being discovered by Lance Russell as a disc jockey and then being trained by Jackie Fargo. That came from nowhere and was cool if nothing else. Also, it’s true, which is something you don’t hear about often.

This is pretty much a Lawler 101 match, as he gets beaten down for a bit and then gets the foreign object (I think it was Welsh) for the turnaround while he shouts at the crowd. Hey, it’s worked for 20 years so why change things now? Foley of course takes some sick bumps on the floor as according to Flair, that’s all he knows how to do. I’ll ignore that for now as I don’t want to bash Flair for a page or so.

Lawler hits his running joke of a dropkick. Basically as most of you know, Lawler isn’t exactly a ring master. One night in Memphis he hit a dropkick and acted like it was a huge deal. He kept doing it and it became part of his repitoire, but every time he acted like it was a huge deal. You know, like Cena hitting the FU on Big Show. Piledriver gets two. Apparently Paul Bearer is hanging with Taker again.

In an ending that I liked a lot more than I should have I think, Lawler goes for another piledriver but Mankind reverses with a backdrop. Lawler goes for a sunset flip, but Foley gets the Claw for the knock out win. I LOVE that. It’s so simple that it worked so well. It was completely out of character for Foley, but it showed that he was a lot smarter than he was made out to be. That was really good.

Rating: D+. This was exactly what it was supposed to be. Foley and Lawler are two guys that know what to do out there and they did exactly what they were supposed to do. The problem was that it was mainly Foley taking sick bumps and no selling stuff to come up at the end with a cool finish, which was the only good part about the match. The ending was a nice nod that worked very well, but it couldn’t save this. I mean really, JERRY LAWLER???

We look at the brackets again just because we have to I guess.

Pillman is in the back talking about how he wants Austin, so Austin sneaks up on him to beat on him and shove his head in a toilet, which there just happened to be a camera mounted above. Yeah good job there production team.

Crush vs. Goldust

Is this some screwed up consolation match or something? This is a great example of why the company was in trouble at the time. There was no point to this but they’ll have it anyway. The Nation is about 10 people here which really was a good idea. They used to hire actors to make it look bigger, which really is brilliant. They mention that he used to be in Demolition which is common knowledge but not something you hear about often.

This was around the time when Vince let Ross be himself and it worked a lot better. This moronic crowd actually pops a bit for Goldust. Why they do that is beyond me but whatever. We ever get a Skandor Akbar reference as Ross is going nuts at the moment. This would be right before the Pillman angle started which was the last one he would ever have. Ross says that Pillman is likely nearly suicidal.

That’s another one of those chilling lines that no one knew how chilling it was at the time. Ross mentions that Terri used to do Larry King’s makeup which is another true thing. We go over the Russo based series of turns and twists that the Nation has been going through. It would be blown up somewhat soon as Rock would join and become a star. Apparently a win here would fulfill Goldust’s American Dream.

I love lines like that which a ton of people had no idea what it meant. Ross follows that up with a jab at Bill Watts and we hear the REAL history of the King of the Ring as a disc jockey said that there should be an annual tournament in New England, meaning Boston or Providence. That started in the mid 80s and never stopped. They dropped the New England aspect though which is a shame. Why is it a shame? I don’t know, but whatever.

Ross is sounding like one of my reviews, but with more interesting stuff. Apparently Monsoon is sick and can’t be here, but he’s by the phone in case a decision is needed. You might have noticed I haven’t talked about the match at all. There’s a reason for that: IT SUCKS. I mean seriously, this would be bad on a house show and it’s getting 10 minutes of PPV time. Crush is more or less sitting on the back with his hands on Goldust’s face, which is called a chinlock.

Goldie kicks and slaps the mat to try to get the fans into it and that actually works. There are few universal truths in wrestling, but one of them will always be that the fans love nothing more than to get involved in a match. We’re told that Goldust is a chip off the old block. Whose block? Well we’re not told but whatever. The Nation, read as D’Lo and the lawyer, goes after Terri. The fans scream BEHIND YOU GOLDUST, which is another thing I love about wrestling: the wrestlers don’t listen.

Anyway, they go back in and a DDT ends it. Seriously: this got ten minutes. Apparently Goldust has a European Title match tomorrow night. Was that the point of this match? To build up Goldie for the title match? It might have been better if that was mentioned before the ending of the match.

Rating: D-. When the highlight of the match is Ross and his stories, that’s not a good sign. This just wasn’t interesting at all and there was zero point to putting this on PPV. It wasn’t interesting at all and it was boring as heck on top of it. Terri’s boobs make it barely pass.

Doc is with Sid and the LOD who are all Americans so they’re a team apparently. Hawk is of course odd when speaking.

Todd is with the heels. Davey is Euro Champion and Owen is IC Champion and has two Slammys. Neidhart used to be a champion like 6 years ago. Oh and he would beat Jay Lethal in about 12 years.

Hart Foundation vs. Sid/Legion of Doom

The Harts here are Owen, Jim and Davey, giving us a total of one Hart in the entire Foundation for this match. I love stupid things like that. Why do I have a feeling the heels are going to win and win easily here? This is being written about 3 days after Bret signed with WWE again, so this is very interesting indeed. There’s a sign in the crowd about cheese for no apparent reason.

The faces come out separately which is rather pointless. The LOD get a decent pop but you could tell their time was about over. This takes FOREVER to get going as we get an LOD chant. It’s Owen and Animal to start us up. Hey, call the Superstar line and run up the phone bill to hear bad promos! More or less all we have here is random power matches as five guys in this match are power guys, and no one saw anything wrong with this.

Also, no one saw a problem with putting THE FREAKING LOD AND SID together as a three man team against two good wrestlers and a generic power guy in Anvil, and yet they had the NERVE to wonder why they were having their heads handed to them. Anvil was a political science major at UCLA. All of a sudden my future seems far more bleak. Seriously, who in the WORLD thought Anvil vs. Hawk was a good idea?

You have two guys that have made a career out of not getting hurt. Just as I type that, Hawk takes a piledriver and of course is up before anyone else. Owen comes in and goes insane. Dang how good could he have been as a veteran? Imagine him vs. Angle or Jericho in 2000-2001. Owen would have been in his late 30s then and definitely capable of working well. He’s two and a half months older than Shawn, so it’s completely realistic that he could still be wrestling and having very good matches today.

He EASILY would have won the world title in there somewhere given the absolute awfulness of some of the champions since then. I mean seriously, who would have been better as champion: Owen or Khali? Anyway, this match is just BAD. Yeah, the match ends and I’ve got nothing at all. Owen wins with a top rope sunset flip. Sid would be gone either the next night or in 8 days.

Rating: F. Seriously, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA??? This fails for reasons that I’ve already given. Owen and Animal were ok, but that’s it. This was just pathetic.

Todd is with Mankind who says that he just can’t wait to be king. Is there any doubt as to why he’s my all time favorite wrestler?

King of the Ring Finals: Mankind vs. HHH

Geez this would be the money feud in about two and a half years. Man I love HHH’s music here. It might be the best music for someone other than a custom made song that I’ve ever heard. I think they kind of screwed up here as Ahmed was more or less the given winner and they him lose clean to someone that was FAR beneath him on the totem poll coming into this. Ross says he can’t picture Chyna as a queen.

That actually is rather amusing. They point out that Mankind has a high IQ and that Dude Love would love tonight. That would happen in about three months. Well I suppose this is better than either guy against Ahmed, which wouldn’t have gone well and Ahmed vs. Lawler would have gone all of 5 minutes at best before Ahmed looked completely awful. To no one’s surprise, this is mainly a brawl.

The mask is already off of Mankind as he’s still selling the neck injury from earlier. The referee throws out Chyna as we’re STILL on the floor. Let’s go to a table just to have some more fun. These were different tables than we’re used to today as they were thicker and sounded much better. A Pedigree through it has Foley more or less out cold. Oh never mind he’s up 12 seconds later.

He’s apparently auditioning for the X Division with that kind of selling. Chyna breaks a scepter over his back which is called his head for some reason by Vince. Let’s just keep it on the floor since it’s worked for about 15 minutes so far. There’s pretty much no flow to this at all as it’s just HHH beating up Foley who takes one sick bump after another.

This is what’s called garbage wrestling, even though there’s a ton of talent in there. To be fair though, the pop for Foley is AWESOME when he kicks out. Another Pedigree gets the pin though, so just like at the 2000 Rumble, the pop is all for naught.

Rating: D+. And the grade here is because I like Foley and won’t give him a failing grade. This was a total and complete mess. It was just way too violent and all over the place with MAYBE 5 minutes of a twenty minute match in the ring. That’s CZW bad level and just completely ridiculous. What was the point of this? I seriously don’t get that. If this had been ten minutes shorter, it would have been light years better.

There is no coronation as he just puts the robe on and beats on Foley some more. They would have an intense show long fight at the next PPV before blowing it off at Summerslam in a great cage match that Foley won.

Austin tells Doc that he doesn’t care about the Harts or the belts, but just wanting to win tonight. We get a quick recap of Austin vs. Shawn. More or less, they both hate the Harts but hate each other. Since Russo is the booker, they are the perfect choices to be tag team champions, which they are here. Austin had beaten up Bret on Raw a few weeks ago after they won the belts which is why he’s not here tonight.

The original big match here was supposed to be Bret vs. Shawn II but they had had a legit backstage fight, and since only Shamrock and maybe Owen could hang with Bret in a legit shoot fight given what Bret knew about submission, they figured it was better to have this instead of Bret potentially killing Shawn.

The Harts throw out an open challenge for Canadian Stampede, which was probably the best crowd in WWF history. As they’re leaving they run into Austin in the back and security stops their near brawl. Austin was rapidly becoming a huge deal around this time and no one knew how big he would become very soon.

Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels

This would become the match in about 10 months but here’s it’s just the other main event that really was the biggest match on the card. Shawn says that he is just worried about the match. Doc says this has been a crazy show. Shawn gets a very nice pop, although not epic. As odd as it sounds, this just doesn’t feel like a bit match at all. Shawn would get hurt soon (again) and have to forfeit his half of the belts, which Dude Love took.

Austin would then get hurt and the titles would be forfeited again, this time with the Headbangers of all teams getting them. Austin starts off hot but a Special Olympian falls over the railing and has to be helped up. Well ok then. Shawn of course gets things going a lot faster as you would expect. He flips Austin off in an amusing moment. He goes to the floor and helps the kid to the back, which is fine. If nothing else it’s classy.

You can tell he has a mental disability so it’s perfectly understandable that he simply fell like that. Still, those games are very cool so I can’t complain a bit. They kind of touch on the insane popularity that Austin is reaching. Amazingly enough, this was just the tip of the iceberg to say the least. This is the Austin that was able to wrestle almost any style as he was much faster and much more athletic at this point.

That would change in about 2 months. The look in Austin’s eyes is almost mesmerizing. He just looks awesome on a lot of levels. Austin is MOVING out there. If I didn’t know what he would become I never would have believed it. He hits the floor and pulls back the mats as the fans are into this. This has been more or less all Stone Cold here. He does something that I can’t remember anyone else doing: he ducks the forearm that Shawn uses to start his comebacks.

Well I’ll be. It’s that simple? Both guys are incredibly popular here. We finally get to the finish after a ton of great back and forth stuff, as the referee gets rammed and Austin hits the Stunner. No referee though, so Austin ducks the chin music and somehow stuns the referee and walks into the kick.

More referees come down and they get beaten up too for the double DQ. That’s really the only ending possible here as they made both guys look great and neither could lose. I would have preferred a time limit, but that’s Vince for you.

Rating: A. This was GREAT stuff with two A-list guys beating the tar out of each other in front of a small but hot crowd. It didn’t really further anything as Michaels got hurt, but I liked it a lot which a lot of people likely won’t.

The Nation says Farooq will win.

WWF Title: Farrooq vs. Undertaker

This is really just a token title defense as no one thought the title was changing here at all. Seriously, FARROOQ was the best they could do? They couldn’t have thrown Owen in there or something? Taker tries to talk but Bearer cuts him off. Bearer is controlling Taker because of a secret he’s holding over him, which was that he killed his parents in a fire, where he had a brother as well. You know the story from there. Taker gets a great pop.

That belt just looks right on Taker. Farrooq, as a heel, of course jumps him while Bearer is yelling at him. I really don’t like the idea of power vs. power here. Taker starts out fast but Farrooq fights back with the generic power offense. Oh look the Nation is interfering. Could you write a more basic match than this? I don’t think I could either. They go back and forth with power moves and the crowd is just dead as possible. NO ONE cares at all, as this was following Michaels and Austin.

Seriously, who thought that was a good idea? The referee goes down and no one cares because it leads nowhere. Bearer yells at Taker to get up and the Nation starts fighting. This would lead to their split into three gangs which no one cared about but the feud got pushed for months anyway. Farrooq slams Taker which is apparently devastating and the arguing distracts him long enough for the tombstone to end this.

Bearer yells at Taker for like 5 minutes until Ahmed comes out to play peacekeeper. Taker gets tired of listening to him so he swings and takes the Plunge. Johnson just leaves and Taker gets up and stalks Bearer to end the show.

Johnson would join the Nation for like a week before getting hurt again and coming back to feud with them AGAIN before leaving for good in January. The Johnson Taker match never happened, which was either due to injury or the name Johnson Taker being copyrighted by Jenna Jameson. It might have been either.

Rating: D-. Seriously, THIS followed Austin and Michaels’ classic. If that was flipped, this would have been a lot better. These two just completely clashed and it was terrible. There was no point to this and nothing was accomplished other than to set up a PPV main event that never happened. In case you were wondering, the WCW PPV main event this month was Savage vs. DDP, falls count anywhere which was a good match. Think about that comparison for a bit.

Overall Rating: D. There’s nothing great here other than one match and then a few decent moments in some bad matches. This was a bad show other than the Austin match as little happened other than to set up two matches at Canadian Stampede. HHH winning meant nothing as he was already about that level and Foley was already over as a face.

Go find Austin vs. Michaels as it’s a great match and completely different from their Mania 14 match. Both are healthy here and it’s amazing to see what they’re capable of in that condition. Other than that, stay far away.

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