In Your House #10: Mind Games – Foley’s Best Match Ever And A Classic Show
Date: September 22, 1996
Location: Core States Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Mr. Perfect
Well, Summerslam has come and gone. Paul Bearer famously turned on Taker to join Mankind after the Boiler Room Brawl. Shawn survived against Vader, and Ahmed had to vacate the IC belt due to injury. Marc Mero would win it the night after this show though. Other than that, not a lot of note has happened. I remember being afraid as a kid that Mankind would take the title here.
As silly as that was, it was a legitimate possibility. However, other than that this card looks pretty weak. Just six matches, but aside from one the shortest is a respectable 5 minutes and 13 seconds. This show gets a lot of praise though, so let’s see if it lives up to the hype.
Free For All-Savio Vega vs. Marty Jannetty
DANG Jannetty just won’t go away will he? The most interesting part of this match is Jannetty’s partner in the New Rockers, Leif Cassidy, more commonly known as Al Snow at ringside. The crowd is chanting the name of some independent northeastern wrestling organization. There’s some dude in the front row that’s really short and looks tough. His tattoo says Toz or something like that.
There’s some dude chugging beer next to him. The third guy there looks….well he looks……he looks hardcore. He’s hardcore? He’s hardcore? He’s HARDCORE! Bradshaw is in the back and apparently is angry that he’s never been on Pay Per View. Oh how that will change. Also, JR mentions he saw the Undertaker come in and go to his dressing room. How weird does that sounds?
Anyway, we have a bad match to watch here. Vince and JR actually acknowledge the ECW chants, saying that this is the home base of their independent company. They thank them for joining WWF for the evening and are glad they bought tickets. My goodness…that was borderline classy.
I know it was planned but still, they weren’t jerks about it. In something that is making me laugh, JR mentions he saw Jim Cornette eating two triple cheeseburgers from a fast food place. For some reason that I simply don’t understand, Jim Cornette’s eating habits at Wendy’s are legendary in the wrestling business. A number three combo large with no lettuce or tomato, extra cheese and no ketchup or mustard with a sprite.
I didn’t look that up, I just knew it off the top of my head, and that’s exactly what he would order every time. Look it up on his website and you’ll see that I’m right. This match is just boring for the most part. It’s just your standard one on one match that ends with Marty getting reversed and pinned.
Rating: D. There was nothing here and the talk of cheeseburgers was more interesting. That’s simply not a good sign at all. Nothing match and just relatively bland. It was free though so that helps things out.
Good opening video but the editing is a bit odd. We get the package of Mankind vs. Shawn, then Goldust vs. Taker, then another on Mankind and Shawn. That just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Very lackluster welcome from Vince. There’s also no music playing, which just kind of kills the mood.
Strap Match-Savio Vega vs. Justin Hawk Bradshaw
This match is a result of what happened on the Free For All. See, again the match was bad, but it served a bit of a purpose for the PPV. I like how Savio is built up as a god in these matches. It’s something unique about him and it gives him a specialty, kind of like Foley and hardcore. Anyway, this match is rather infamous. Like I said this is ECW country.
During this match, Sandman, Dreamer and Taz create a small riot in the front row as Sandman spits beer at Vega. There’s a huge ordeal and all kinds of security guarding them, which completely takes away from the match but who cares about that. I particularly like how the commentators keep talking about how great this match is until the beer incident. Once that happens, they more or less make it sounds like it’s time to just end this.
That’s a shame too as this wasn’t a terrible match. The stipulation was pretty random, but at least it was something that fit with Savio and continued this mini feud that had been going on for months now with no one caring about it. The finish though was exactly the same as Vega/Austin from a few months ago. Vega holds on to get the first three but then we get a tug of war and Savio is launched into the fourth corner.
Rating: C+. Not bad at all really, but it’s overshadowed by the ECW incident. I’ve long since been a fan of this kind of stipulation, but I’d like to see it as a match for a solid feud and not just something that’s there for the sake of filler. As long as they had been feuding for, this was filler and nothing more. Not bad, but for seven minutes, what are you expecting?
Jose Lothario vs. Jim Cornette
This is just a manager vs. manager match. However, Cornette is more known for his eating abilities and not his work in the ring. Lothario trained HBK and Bobby Lashley, as well as had a relatively successful career in Texas during the 70s.
This started a month ago in a face to face debate that of course turned into a fight. Since then, Super Sock, which was Lothario’s nickname, beat up Cornette on a regular basis. Of course, Cornette got in all the standard old guy jokes: when he was in school there was no history, his social security number is 1, etc.
For some reason, before this match we jump to the back to see “Razor Ramon and Diesel” beat up Savio Vega. This was just a strange angle that never made a bit of sense to me at all. For some reason the decision was made to turn JR heel.
He started going on these absurd rants about how he was the reason WWF was as successful as it was, and promised to bring back Razor and Diesel. They weren’t the real ones obviously and it was a bomb. The fake Razor never did anything of note but a year later the fake Diesel would become known as Kane.
The whole thing made no sense at all and no one bought it. About a month later the company woke up and realized that JR simply isn’t a heel character so they just dropped the angle all together.
Anyway, Jose comes out to Shawn’s music. This match is just hysterical. Cornette is about 240lbs but fat. Jose is 62 years old and in decent shape. He beats Cornette in about a minute, but the jokes that JR and Perfect get in during that time are just great. Cornette is without a doubt one of the funniest guys I have ever seen and this is no exception. He’s so on here it’s amazing.
Rating: N/A. Hardly a match but not enough to grade really.
Savio says he’s not sure who attacked him but it might have been Razor and Diesel.
We go back to the arena where Brian Pillman comes out and says that he’s upset at Bret. Apparently Bret bailed out of an interview that Brian had set up. We see a video from Bret saying that there was never an interview and Pillman is lying. Pillman says that Philadelphia is a horrible city with drugs, prostitution etc. He says that he’ll bring out someone to clean up the city and out comes Owen.
Owen says Bret needs to retire, and brings out Stone Cold. Austin says things like Bret claims to be the excellence of execution but Austin lives it instead of saying it. Austin is on top of his game here but it wouldn’t be until Bret answered his challenge that Austin was launched into the stratosphere. This was most entertaining.
Tag Titles: Smoking Gunns vs. Owen Hart/British Bulldog
Pretty much Camp Cornette was just handed the #1 contender spot simply because everyone knew they were the best team in the company. This match was pretty much just a formality to confirm it. No Cornette here though which is I guess because he got his teeth kicked in. Ah yes that’s where he is according to Doc.
Was there anything Sunny didn’t look good in? Bulldog and Owen have commandeered the massive Sunny poster. YOU SWINE! Billy and Owen start us off. Could the Guns have been any more bland? Mason comes down with a clipboard. I believe this was due to a document Cornette signed which was him accidentally signing away the control of his stable.
Owen controls early of course since Billy has nothing at all. Ross brings up Vince’ indictment which has to be a line fed to him because if not then he would die. Perfect begins the lie about Billy being awesome. I couldn’t stand him eventually as he was constantly being pushed and he never deserved it whatsoever.
The other two are in now and we get the and it’s a chop block to Bart and to put him in trouble. Vince reads off Clarence’s business card to kill time. This isn’t much at all here as we’re just kind of going through the motions.
All challenger dominance here. Enziguri on Bart gets two. The Gunns take over for a change of pace and still nothing is working that well at all. Sidewinder on Bulldog but Mason gets the referee. Slammy to Billy’s head doesn’t get us anywhere either. Crowd is rather dead here too.
Billy takes over and you would think that would imply some pops from the crowd wouldn’t you? Apparently we’re playing the quiet game I suppose. Billy makes a stupid tag and Bart walks into the powerslam to give the heels the titles which they would hold forever. Sunny goes off on them afterwards, splitting with them.
Rating: D+. Pretty boring here for the most part as the Gunns just sucked BADLY. This wasn’t anything special or even good as both teams knew there was no real point or heat at all here and it wasn’t any good. Boring match and the only thing it had going for it was that it wasn’t incredibly long.
The Gunns would finally split up soon after this and pretty much no one would care. After this, the tag title would pretty much do nothing for about a year as Owen and Bulldog dominated the division. You’d get a random two superstar tag team reign (Austin/Foley etc.) or the off the wall reign like the returning LOD or the Headbangers.
It wasn’t until November of the following year that the New Age Outlaws would form and breathe life into it as teams like the APA and the Hardys made the belts and the division worth anything again.
After almost two years of worthless reigns by teams no one wanted to see, the Dudleys finally arrived as the hottest tag team act on the planet and brought in another golden age of tag wrestling along with the other two teams that everyone associated them with. And that’s enough Attitude Era tag team history for now. More in later reviews.
Jerry Lawler vs. Mark Henry
Oh dang it I forgot Henry debuted in this time period. We see a recap of Henry making some run ins to help out Jake Roberts against Lawler. Henry is pure face at this point and acts like Kurt Angle when he debuted. It’s a sight indeed. Lawler continues to prove why he’s one of the best mic men ever. His insults are so basic but his delivery is great and it just works.
Lawler even insults Henry by saying he’s going to teach him all kinds of lessons. Lawler of course gets his head handed to him. Henry has no offense at this point but that makes sense as he’s a rookie in his first match. He uses very basic moved like slams and chops, but for someone brand new that’s logical. However, when they’ve been with the company for twelve years it’s not acceptable.
This is a pure comedy match with Lawler never being able to get anything going. He lands an illegal object to the head of Henry which does some damage. Henry comes back with more rookie offense of course and lands an over the shoulder back breaker for the submission. Think of the starting position for the Razor’s Edge but instead of lifting them up you pull them down so they’re being pressed against your shoulder.
It really looks painful actually, despite Henry not using it right. Anyway, it was a decent debut. Post match, the New Rockers and HHH run out to try to fight Henry for absolutely no reason at all. They of course get beaten up. Pyro goes off for no logical reason and Henry celebrates.
Rating: B-. It’s a comedy match for a gimmick wrestler’s debut. Were you expecting Steamboat/Savage here? For what it was, this was fine. It made Henry look good against a veteran that didn’t need a win and for a person like Henry at the time I really liked his offensive style. However, that was 1996. It’s now 2009 and Henry still uses the same moveset. That is unacceptable plain and simple.
In the back we see the new tag champions with their new manager that lawyer guy. Apparently he tricked Cornette into signing their contract to him. No one cares.
Goldust vs. Undertaker
We see a recap, which implies Mankind is working for Goldust. Why would that make any sense at all? Why would a mid carder have power over a main eventer? Come on WWF, think please? This is a Final Curtain match, which means no DQ and you can only win by pinfall. Ok I guess. Yet again though, Taker is just beating Goldust up. At least this time it’s not as one sided.
It’s still one sided, just not as badly. Marlena does nothing really. Taker picking her up by her elbows was cool though. More random moves from Taker including a vertical suplex. Goldust throws some dust into his eyes to take over and for the first time in five months, we see Goldust work over Taker. You get your basic stuff here, and then Goldust uses one of the most effective basic moves I’ve ever seen.
Taker is in position for a reverse chinlock, but instead Goldust just covers Taker’s mouth and nose with his hands. That’s such a simple move but it’s actually brilliant. Then we get your standard Taker comeback after Goldust rubs his own chest a bit.
Basic stuff but the crowd pops for it so it’s all well and good. Anyway, we get the chokeslam from the top and a tombstone to finally polish off this feud. Post match, the commentators talk about how they’re looking forward to Buried Alive next month, which really was a cool idea I think. It was absurd, but a good kind of absurd.
Rating: B-. Far better than anything they have done before and for one reason: it wasn’t a squash. Goldust got in some good offense here and controlled a decent portion of this match. That’s really all I ask for is something somewhat competitive. Good match and while not a classic, it got Taker a decent win in his main storyline, which means it served its purpose.
We go to the back to hear Shawn talk about how he really has no idea what he’s going to do here as he’s never faced someone like Mankind. That’s true, as there really hadn’t been anyone like Foley before in the company. Thank goodness he didn’t get his original name: Mankind the Mutilator, as that would have just not worked. Earlier today on Superstars Shawn was put into the Mandible Claw and it knocked him down for a long time. He says he’ll be making it up as he goes out there.
WWF Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind
This match has always been praised as a classic by both men. I’ve heard good and bad things about it, so let’s see how it holds up. Mankind was viewed as a legitimate threat to the title based on what he had done to Taker in the past. At this point though, he was still a relative rookie in the company, but that didn’t matter. That’s what WWE needs more of today: don’t start guys as rookies.
Launch them into main storylines. Anyway, Mankind comes out in a casket and does his whole rock back and forth with the urn which was something I always liked for some odd reason. The crowd is insane for Shawn. I’ve never gotten how the reaction that the crowds give didn’t equal the ratings. Shawn was madly over, but he never drew anything as far as ratings went. Maybe it was the rest of the show or WCW, but for some reason there wasn’t a connection there.
The announcers are really putting Foley over big here which is something that does a lot to help him in this match. He opens up hard by taking control, but eventually it goes outside and Shawn starts going nuts. He hits a cross body from the top to the floor and after pulling the mats up, jumps from the apron to the floor, shoving Foley’s head into the concrete in what is another basic but good spot.
Not everything has to be flashy to look good. That move and Goldust’s smothering thing earlier are proof of that. This match has a weird flow to it. While it’s not a traditional face vs. heel formula, it has a unique formula that is working for some reason. Shawn is throwing everything he’s got at Foley but nothing is working. Most of it is Shawn on the offense using his standard stuff, but it’s just not working on Mankind.
He’s having to get more aggressive in this match and it’s a style I like. This is very reminiscent of the Diesel match that he had at In Your House 7 and that just worked on all levels. This match is really the kind of stuff that the Attitude Era was built on which is likely why it was considered to be so good. You could say that it was ahead of its time I suppose.
Anyway, Foley gets his knee slammed into the stairs a few times but that really doesn’t get Shawn anywhere. They keep going back and forth which is just great. Every time one gets anything going for them the other just takes it away from them. They’ve been going about 15 minutes and haven’t let up yet. We finally get the famous spot in the match as Mankind is thrown into the ropes and gets his head caught between them.
As Shawn attacks, he gets stuck in the claw. They brawl on the floor for awhile and the Claw is locked on again but Shawn counters. Mankind accidentally punches a chair and Shawn works on the fingers to take away the Claw, which is really smart actually. Somehow Mankind gets the advantage back and starts getting near falls. This match really is getting great now as it’s long passed just being good.
Back and forth, all kinds of action, and if you were watching at this point you had the doubt in your mind as to whether or not Shawn could put him away, which is the golden key to any match: doubt. Foley can’t beat him so he pulls a Spunky and starts to beat on himself.
After that Shawn makes ANOTHER comeback and starts beating the living tar out of Mankind. He’s jumping all over the place but finally, and I do mean finally gets crotched on the top rope to stop him. Shawn then gets belly to back suplexed from the top through the Spanish Announce Table, which was a brand new concept at the time and therefore not funny or ironic yet. After that, Mankind throws a second chair into the ring but Shawn gets in first.
Mankind climbs the ropes but Shawn gets a running start and kicks the other chair into Foley’s face, which is called Sweet Chin Music. Not really but I’ll let it go. Shawn goes insanely slow so you can tell that this is your finish. And of course, here he comes: Vader runs in for the DQ and we get the garbage finish to the great match. Post match, Sid runs out to fight Sid after Paul Bearer knocks Shawn out with the urn.
He knocks Shawn out again for the second time in about 30 seconds with the Claw before signaling for the casket to be opened. Then, in one of the funniest scenes I can ever remember as a wrestling fan, the casket is opened and of course Taker is inside. The look on Bearer’s face is mindblowingly funny.
The key here is that earlier the casket was opened and there was no Taker. He goes after Mankind of course and just looks absolutely awesome doing it. Foley looks scared to death and limps to the back with Taker following him as Shawn is declared the winner by DQ to end the show.
Rating: A. This would be an easy A+ if it had a real finish. I don’t like the DQ here, but I really don’t have another choice I guess. There wasn’t anything that could have been done otherwise to keep Mankind’s heat going and not take the belt from Shawn or make him look weak. Either way, this was a great match with all kinds of back and forth stuff. Top level here all the way and I can see why they both rate this match so highly.
Overall Rating: A. GIN! The company got it right, FINALLY. Every match on this card had a purpose, everything made sense, and above all else: THE MATCHES WERE GOOD! Let’s see what we have here: a gimmick match, a comedy match, a title change, a debut, the blow off to a feud, and a great title match to close out the show and set up the main event for the next show. What more could you really ask for? This is a great PPV, regardless of what formula you’re following. Definite recommendation as this is two hours of what wrestling is all about.
Remember to like this on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @kbreviews