wrestling / Columns

Leighty’s Retro Rankings: 1996 WCW and WWF PPV Matches

October 18, 2023 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
WWE In Your House Mind Games Shawn Michaels Mankind Image Credit: WWE/Peacock

-Last week I finished my quest to review every PPV from WCW and WWF in 1996. As I did with 1997, I present my rankings of every match from the year. I did not include the matches from any of the Clash of Champions as it didn’t seem fair to compare short TV matches with commercial breaks. Thanks to anyone that ready any of the my Retro Reviews. As a reminder these are obviously my rankings and we all have our favorites as far as wrestler, style, etc. There is always room for healthy debate and discussion, but at the end of the day it is just my opinion. Let’s get to it!

154) WWF Intercontinental Title: Goldust (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior DUD (WWF In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies)

153) Armageddon Rules Match: The Undertaker vs. The Executioner DUD (WWF In Your House: It’s Time)

152) WCW US Title: Konnan (c) vs. One Man Gang DUD (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

151) Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts DUD (WWF SummerSlam)

150) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: The Blue Bloods vs. Jim Duggan and VK Wallstreet DUD (WCW Slamboree)

149) Battle Bowl: 2nd Round: Dick Slater and Ear Robert Eaton vs. Jim Duggan and VK Wallstreet DUD (WCW Slamboree)

148) Respect Strap Match: Kevin Sullivan vs. Arn Anderson DUD (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

147) Respect Strap Match: Kevin Sullivan vs. Brian Pillman DUD (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

146) Jim Cornette vs. Jose Lothario SQUASH (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

145) Lochness vs. The Giant SQUASH (WCW Uncensored)

144) The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley SQUASH (WWF WrestleMania XII)

143) Diamond Dallas Page vs. The Booty Man 1/4* (WCW Uncensored)

142) Jerry Lawler vs. The Ultimate Warrior 1/2* (WWF King of The Ring)

141) Steve McMichael vs. Joe Gomez 1/2* (WCW Bash at The Beach)

140) Survivor Series Elimination Match: Faarooq, “Razor Ramon,” “Diesel,” Vader vs. Savio Vega, Yokozuna, Flash Funk, Jimmy Snuka 1/2* (WWF Survivor Series)

139) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: Dick Slater and Earl Robert Eaton vs. Alex Wright and Disco Inferno 1/2* (WCW Slamboree)

138) WWF Tag Titles: Fatal 4-Way: Smoking Gunns (c) vs. Bodydonnas vs. Godwins vs. New Rockers 1/2* (WWF SummerSlam)

137) Big Bubba vs. John Tenta 1/2* (WCW Great American Bash)

136) Battle Bowl 1st Round: Big Bubba and Stevie Ray vs. Fire and Ice 1/2* (WCW Slamboree)

135) British Bulldog vs. Yokozuna 1/2* (WWF In Your House: Rage in the Cage)

134) WCW Title: The Giant (c) vs. Hollywood Hogan 1/2* (WCW Road Wild)

133) King of The Ring Semi-Final: Vader vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts 1/2* (WWF King of The Ring)

132) Doomsday Cage: Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs. The Alliance to End Hulk-A-Mania 1/2* (WCW Uncensored)

131) Battle Bowl: 2nd Round: DDP and The Barbarian vs. The Booty Man and Rick Steiner 3/4* (WCW Slamboree)

130) Smoking Gunns vs. The Bodydonnas 3/4* (WWF In Your House: International Incident)

129) WWF Tag Titles: Smoking Gunns (c) vs. The Godwins * (WWF King of The Ring)

128) The Giant vs. Jeff Jarrett * (WCW Halloween Havoc)

127) WCW Women’s Title Tournament Final: Medusa vs. Akira Hokuto * (WCW Starrcade)

126) WCW Tag Titles: Sting and Lex Luger (c) vs. The Road Warriors * (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

125) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: Animal and Booker T vs. Hawk and Lex Luger * (WCW Slamboree)

124) WCW Tag Titles: Sting and Lex Luger (c) vs. Harlem Heat * (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

123) Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. Mark Henry * (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

122) Colonel Parker vs. Madusa * (WCW Uncensored)

121) Mankind vs. Henry Godwin * (WWF In Your House: International Incident)

120) King of The Ring Finals: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts * (WWF King of The Ring)

119) Survivor Series Elimination Match: Crush, Jerry Lawler, Goldust, Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Marc Mero, The Stalker, Rocky Maivia, Jake “The Snake” Roberts *1/4 (WWF Survivor Series)

118) Cage Match: Hulk Hogan vs. The Giant *1/4 (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

117) WWF Tag Titles: Bulldog and Owen Hart vs. “Razor Ramon” and “Diesel” *1/2 (WWF In Your House: It’s Time)

116) Lord of The Ring Battle Royal *1/2 (WCW Slamboree)

115) Carson City Silver Dollar Match: Big Bubba vs. John Tenta *1/2 (WCW Bash at The Beach)

114) Taped Fist: Lord of The Ring: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan *1/2 (WCW Bash at The Beach)

113) The Amazing French Canadians vs. Harlem Heat *1/2 (WCW World War 3)

112) Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese *1/2 (WWF In Your House: Rage in the Cage)

111) Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson *1/2 (WWF Royal Rumble)

110) Scott Norton vs. Ice Train *1/2 (WCW Road Wild)

109) Bike Match: Medusa vs. Bull Nakano *1/2 (WCW Road Wild)

108) Chris Jericho vs. Nick Patrick *1/2 (WCW World War 3)

107) Vader vs. Yokozuna *1/2 (WWF In Hour House: Beware of Dog 2)

106) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: DDP and The Barbarian vs. Meng and Hugh Morrus *1/2 (WCW Slamboree)

105) Goldust vs. The Undertaker *1/2 (WWF In Your House: International Incident)

104) WCW Title: The Giant (c) vs. Lex Luger *1/2 (WCW Great American Bash)

103) Randy Savage vs. The Giant *1/2 (WCW Fall Brawl)

102) World War 3 60 Man Battle Royal *1/2 (WCW World War 3)

101) WWF Tag Titles: The Bodydonnas (c) vs. The Godwins ** (WWF In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies)

100) WWF Tag Titles: The Smoking Gunns (c) vs. The Bodydonnas ** (WWF Royal Rumble)

99) WCW US Title: Konnan (c) vs. El Gato ** (WCW Great American Bash)

98) Goldust vs. Marc Mero ** (WWF SummerSlam)

97) The Giant vs. Jeff Jarrett ** (WCW World War 3)

96) Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake Roberts” vs. Vader, British Bulldog, Owen Hart ** (WWF WrestleMania XII)

95) British Bulldog and Owen Hart vs. Ahmed Johnson and Jake “The Snake” Roberts ** (WWF In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies)

94) Submission Match: Ice Train vs. Scott Norton ** (WCW Fall Brawl)

93) WWF Intercontinental Title: Goldust (c) vs. Ahmed Johnson (WWF King of The Ring) **

92) British Bulldog vs. Sid ** (WWF SummerSlam)

91) Vader vs. Sid ** (WWF In Your House: Buried Alive)

90) Strap Match: Savio Vega vs. Justin Hawk Bradshaw ** (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

89) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: The Public Enemy vs. Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit ** (WCW Slamboree)

88) Chris Benoit and Arn Anderson vs. The Giant and Kevin Sullivan ** (WCW Bash at The Beach)

87) Final Curtain Match: The Undertaker vs. Goldust ** (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

86) WCW Title: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Randy Savage ** (WCW Halloween Havoc)

85) WCW Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper ** (WCW Starrcade)

84) Cage Match: WWF Title: Bret Hart (c) vs. Diesel ** (WWF In Your House: Rage in the Cage)

83) Lord of The Ring: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Marcus Bagwell **1/4 (WCW Great American Bash)

82) Lord of The Ring: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Eddie Guerrero **1/4 (WCW Halloween Havoc)

81) WWF Tag Titles: The Smoking Gunns vs. British Bulldog and Owen Hart **1/4 (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

80) WWF Tag Titles: The British Bulldog and Owen Hart (c) vs. The Smoking Gunns **1/4 (WWF In Your House: Buried Alive)

79) 30 Man Royal Rumble **1/4 (WWF Royal Rumble)

78) WCW Tag Titles: Harlem Heat (c) vs. The Steiners **1/4 (WCW Road Wild)

77) The Outsiders vs. Sting and Lex Luger **1/4 (WCW Road Wild)

76) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Psychosis **1/4 (WCW World War 3)

75) Boiler Room Brawl: The Undertaker vs. Mankind **1/4 (WWF SummerSlam)

74) Double Dog Collar: Public Enemy vs. The Nasty Boys **1/4 (WCW Bash at The Beach)

73) WWF Intercontinental Title: Razor Ramon (c) vs. Goldust **1/2 (WWF Royal Rumble)

72) WWF Intercontinental Title: Marc Mero (c) vs. Goldust **1/2 (WWF In Your House: Buried Alive)

71) Arn Anderson vs. Lex Luger **1/2 (WCW Halloween Havoc)

70) WCW US Title: Konnan (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero **1/2 (WCW Uncensored)

69) Survivor Series Elimination Match: Bulldog, Owen Hart, New Rockers vs. Doug Furnas, Phil LaFon, The Godwins **1/2 (WWF Survivor Series)

68) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Brad Armstrong **1/2 (WCW Slamboree)

67) Lex Luger vs. The Giant **1/2 (WCW Starrcade)

66) Chicago Street Fight: Sting and Booker T vs. The Road Warriors **1/2 (WCW Uncensored)

65) WCW Tag Titles: Harlem Heat (c) vs. The Nasty Boys **1/2 (WCW Fall Brawl)

64) The Faces of Fear vs. Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael **1/2 (WCW Halloween Havoc)

63) WCW Tag Titles: The Outsiders vs. The Nasty Boys vs. The Faces of Fear **1/2 (WCW World War 3)

62) WCW United States Title: Diamond Dallas Page (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero **1/2 (WCW Starrcade)

61) WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. The British Bulldog **1/2 (WWF In Your House: Beware of Dog 1)

60) WWF Intercontinental Title: Casket Match: Goldust (c) vs. The Undertaker **1/2 (WWF In Your House: Beware of Dog 2)

59) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: Craig Pittman and Scott Steiner vs. Rick Steiner and The Booty Man **3/4 (WCW Slamboree)

58) WWF Title: Sid (c) vs. Bret Hart **3/4 (WWF In Your House: It’s Time)

57) The Steiners vs. Fire and Ice **3/4 (WCW Great American Bash)

56) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Marc Mero **3/4 (WWF In Your House: International Incident)

55) Grudge Match: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr **3/4 (WCW Fall Brawl)

54) Mankind vs. The Undertaker **3/4 (WWF Survivor Series)

53) WCW TV Title and Diamond Doll vs. 6 Million Dollars: Johnny B Badd (c) vs. Diamond Dallas Page *** (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

52) Flash Funk vs. Leif Cassidy *** (WWF In Your House: It’s Time)

51) WWF Intercontinental Title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. Marc Mero *** (WWF In Your House: It’s Time)

50) Savio Vega vs. Owen Hart *** (WWF SummerSlam)

49) Chris Jericho vs. Syxx *** (WCW Halloween Havoc)

48) WWF Title: Bret Hart (c) vs. The Undertaker *** (WWF Royal Rumble)

47) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley *** (WWF In Your House: Buried Alive)

46) Crybaby Match: Razor Ramon vs. 1-2-3 Kid *** (WWF In Your House: Rage in The Cage)

45) Battle Bowl: 1st Round: Randy Savage and Ric Flair vs. Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero *** (WCW Slamboree)

44) WCW Title: The Giant (c) vs. Sting *** (WCW Slamboree)

43) WCW US Title: Konnan (c) vs. Ric Flair *** (WCW Bash at The Beach)

42) WCW Tag Titles: The Outsiders (c) vs. The Faces of Fear *** (WCW Starrcade)

41) Diesel vs. The Undertaker *** (WWF WrestleMania XII)

40) Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan vs. Sting, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger *** (WCW Bash at The Beach)

39) Street Fight: Public Enemy vs. The Nasty Boys ***1/4 (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

38) Konnan vs. Juventud Guerrera ***1/4 (WCW Fall Brawl)

37) WCW US Title: Konnan (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger ***1/4 (WCW Slamboree)

36) WCW US Title: Ric Flair (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero ***1/4 (WCW Road Wild)

35) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega ***1/4 (WWF WrestleMania XII)

34) WCW Tag Titles: Harlem Heat (c) vs. The Outsiders ***1/4 (WCW Halloween Havoc)

33) War Games: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Hollywood Hogan, “Sting” vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Sting ***1/4 (WCW Fall Brawl)

32) Lord Steven Regal vs. Fit Final ***1/4 (WCW Uncensored)

31) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Disco Inferno ***1/2 (WCW Bash at The Beach)

30) Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit ***1/2 (WCW Road Wild)

29) Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart ***1/2 (WWF In Your House: Rage in the Cage)

28) Vader vs. Razor Ramon ***1/2 (WWF In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies)

27) Ric Flair and Arn Anderson vs. Steve McMichael and Kevin Greene ***1/2 (WCW Great American Bash)

26) Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Rey Mysterio Jr ***1/2 (WCW Starrcade)

25) Lord Steven Regal vs. Sting ***1/2 (WCW Great American Bash)

24) WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. The British Bulldog ***1/2 (WWF King of The Ring)

23) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. ***1/2 (WCW Great American Bash)

22) Mankind vs. The Undertaker ***3/4 (WWF King of The Ring)

21) Marc Mero vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley ***3/4 (WWF In Your House: Beware of Dog 1)

20) Buried Alive Match: The Undertaker vs. Mankind ***3/4 (WWF In Your House: Buried Alive)

19) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Super Calo ***3/4 (WCW Fall Brawl)

18) No DQ Match: Chris Benoit vs. Jeff Jarrett ***3/4 (WCW Starrcade)

17) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Rey Mysterio (c) vs. The Ultimo Dragon ***3/4 (WCW Road Wild)

16) Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit ***3/4 (WCW Fall Brawl)

15) King of The Ring: Semi-Final: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Marc Mero ***3/4 (WWF King of The Ring)

14) WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Vader **** (WWF SummerSlam)

13) Vader, British Bulldog, Owen Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, Sid **** (WWF In Your House: International Incident)

12) WCW Cruiserweight Title: Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Dean Malenko **** (WCW Halloween Havoc)

11) Cage Match: WCW World Title: Randy Savage (c) vs. Ric Flair **** (WCW SuperBrawl VI)

10) J Crown Championship: Ultimo Dragon (c) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr **** (WCW World War 3)

9) J Crown vs. WCW Cruiserweight Title: Ultimo Dragon vs. Dean Malenko **** (WCW Starrcade)

8) WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Sid **** (WWF Survivor Series)

7) Falls Count Anywhere: Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan **** (WCW Great American Bash)

6) Psychosis vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. ****1/4 (WCW Bash at The Beach)

5) WWF Title: Iron Man Match: Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels ****1/2 (WWF WrestleMania XII)

First 20 Minutes:
-Bret gives his sunglasses to his son, Blade before the match gets started. As expected a very slow start to the match as they are trying to pace themselves. Shawn controls early with some basic wrestling moves and that frustrates Hart. Bret reverses to a side headlock, and works that for a few minutes. Shawn tries to push off, but Bret holds on and rides Michaels to the mat. Our first two count of the match comes for Bret off the side headlock. Shawn tries to escape again, but Bret maintains the hold. Shawn gets his first two count when he rolls Bret back on his shoulders. A small flurry occurs with various counters much to the crowds delight, but it all ends with Bret regaining control with the side headlock. Shawn gets another two count before both men get to their feet. Michaels breaks with a back heel trip, but Bret switches to a front facelock. He switches that right back to the side headlock, but Shawn finally quickens the pace, and drops Bret with 2 arm drags. Shawn now works his hold of choice: an armbar. We are about eight minutes in, and Lawler starts breaking out the age jokes on Helen and Stu Hart. Shawn reverses Bret’s attempt at another side headlock into a hammerlock. The story so far is that Shawn has been able to match Bret on the mat, which nobody expected going into the match. Lawler has done a tremendous job of putting this fact over. Bret starts to go heel as he won’t break clean in the corner. He tosses Michaels, but he uses the top rope to counter with a head scissors that sends Bret to the floor. The move had little effect on Bret physically, but his reaction shows it frustrated him. Shawn gets sent over the top, but skins the cat, and rides Bret back to the mat with the armbar. Bret quickens the pace and buries a knee into midsection of Shawn. He drops a headbutt to the abs, and goes right back to the neck. Shawn breaks a chinlock with a jawbreaker, and grounds Bret with a cross armbreaker. Both men get to their feet, and things pick up as Shawn tries a leap frog. Bret catches him though and drops him with a spinebuster. Shawn gets clotheslined to the floor and Bret follows. In the chaos on the floor the poor timekeeper eats Sweet Chin Music. Perhaps that’s why he had no problem ringing the fucking bell some 18 months later. He was pissed at Bret for moving out of the way of the kick. The medics stretcher out the timekeeper as Bret controls things in the ring with another chinlock. Bret screams “ask him Earl, this isn’t a starring contest,” in a funny moment. Bret hits a sweet hooking clothesline that damn near killed Shawn, and we go right back to the chinlock. The crowd has hung with them so far and starts rallying behind Shawn. He responds with a dropkick and takes Bret right back to the mat with another armbar.

Middle 20 Minutes:
-Michaels continues the arm/shoulder work, and after Bret rolls to a facelock, Shawn casually counters to a hammerlock. They get to their feet, and head to the corner where Bret breaks with two pretty vicious back elbows. Shawn reverses a whip, and sends Bret shoulder first into the ring post. He wraps Bret’s shoulder around the post, and has time to curse at a cameraman who got a little too close. Classy! A sweet shoulder breaker continues the damage, and things get better with a nasty looking hammerlock slam. He sends Bret shoulder first into the turnbuckle this time. I think the post worked better, but still effective. This first twenty-five minutes has been all about Shawn. Bret starts to fire back, but sets to early on a backdrop and eats a single arm DDT to further damage the shoulder. He goes back to the cross armbreaker, but Bret escapes by raking his boot on Shawn’s face. A stungun on the middle rope finally gets Bret a chance to regroup. He slingshots Shawn into the post, and because of a delay he is only able to get a two count. Things pick up as Bret starts taking over on offense. He hits a nice bulldog, and heads to the top rope. That doesn’t go so well though as Shawn catches him. They fight there for a few seconds before Bret rides Shawn down into the ref. Shawn is able to snap off a powerslam for a two count. He attempts a backdrop, but he also sets early, and Bret hits a piledrive much to the delight of Lawler. Hart goes to the top rope again as Lawler questions his logic, and again it fails, as Michaels slams him to the mat. They seem to blow a spot as Bret hooks the ropes earlier than Shawn had thought. They repeat the spot after a backbreaker, and it ends with Bret bailing to the floor. He walks around the ring and Shawn greets him with a crossbody off the top rope. Bret stated in his book that he practically had to catch Shawn because he was heading for the railing. Shawn fires Bret back into the ring, and heads to the top rope. He hits another crossbody, but Bret rolls through for a hot near fall. That seriously should have been in a pin in any other Iron Man Match. Shawn actually has the balls to bust out a perfect-plex, but it only gets two. I guess that proves Shawn’s not perfect. He slows things down again with a sleeper. I always loved how this decided a fall in the Rock/HHH match, but not here. Shawn sends Bret across the ring with a mule kick. He charges at Bret, but in a crazy bump he gets back dropped over the post and to the floor. Shawn got some serious elevation on that one, and took a sweet bump as he hit the floor. Bret goes out to greet Shawn and rams him back first into the post. He fires Shawn back into the ring and goes to work on the damaged back. He heads to the middle rope and drops an elbow into the lower back. They seem to botch another spot, but they cover well enough as Bret hits a backbreaker.

Final 20 Minutes
-Shawn gets sent into the buckles and does a flip to end up sitting on the turnbuckle. That’s perfect for Bret as he brings him down from the top rope with a belly to back suplex. That easily could have been a fall as well. Bret locks in a camel clutch, but Shawn is able to break. He gets a fluke two count off a sunset flip, but has nothing to follow it up with. Shawn finds the strength to come off the middle rope, but Bret calmly buries a fist into the midsection. He nails a side Russian leg sweep, and sends Shawn into the buckles with such force that Shawn flips to the floor and lands on Jose. There were some big cheers from some in the crowd for that one. Bret follows to the floor and fires Shawn into the steps where he runs into Jose again. Bret has time to yell at Jose before getting back in the ring. The two men start trading blows in the center of the ring, but Bret cuts him off with a timely shot to the back. Bret attempts a suplex, but Shawn flips out and gets a roll-up. Bret kicks out at two and it sends Shawn to the floor. As Shawn gets to his feet he is met by Bret diving through the ropes. He looks to pick Shawn up, but changes his mind and decides to get a count-out. Shawn is able to get to apron, and Bret tries to suplex him back in the ring. Again, Shawn lands on his feet, and tries a suplex of his own, but Bret reverses and hits a sweet German suplex. Bret fires away, and Shawn tells him to bring it. That only pisses Bret off and he stiffs the shit out of Shawn with a boot. Awesome! We reach the 10:00 mark with Bret controlling with a modified camel clutch. Shawn is able to get to his knees to relieve the pressure on his back, but Bret is content to control from that position. The fans again rally Shaw, and he breaks the hold with some elbows. They do the double clothesline spot to leave them bout out with 7:30 remaining. They start trading blows again in the middle of the ring as they are doing a great job of selling their exhaustion. Bret is able to hook Shawn on the top rope and deliver a super-plex. He goes for the sharpshooter, but Shawn blocks. The Hitman keeps hold of the ankle, and goes for a figure four, but Shawn blocks that, so Bret settles for a single leg Boston crab. Shawn is too close to the ropes though, and is able to break things rather quickly. He continues the work on the back with another backbreaker. He heads to the middle rope, but all he finds is Shawn’s boot as he lands. A beautiful dropkick from Shawn hits Bret squarely in the face. Bret takes his sternum corner bump as Shawn starts to build steam. The flying forearm leads to the nip-up, and now Shawn is controlling things. He lands a flying back elbow, and gets a two count off a twisting double axe from the top rope. A snap suplex sets up the flying elbow (still not as good as Savage’s) and that gets another two count. At the two minute mark Shawn hits a gutwrench powerbomb for two. A moonsault press from the top rope gets yet another two count. Shawn is throwing all he has to Hart to get the much needed pin fall, and it’s not working. He heads to the top rope for a final time, but Bret catches him and locks in the sharpshooter with 35 seconds to go. The fans erupt as half are begging Shawn to hold on, while the other half are hoping he squeals like a pig. The match ends 0-0 and Bret receives the title from Hebnar. Gorilla gets in the ring, and lets the ref know that there must be a winner. Finkle lets everyone know we are headed to sudden death OT much to the chagrin of Bret. I got to side with Bret on this one.

-This was all set up when Piper announced that there had to be a winner one way or another. The bell rings and the OT starts with Bret pounding on the injured back. A backdrop kills Shawn, and a side suplex doesn’t help the bad back. Shawn floats over Bret in the corner and gets Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere. Bret actually beats Shawn to his feet, but he walks right into a second Sweet Chin Music and that finishes things at 61:53.

-Hebnar goes to give Shawn the belt, but he won’t take it. He tells Hebnar to get Bret out of the fucking ring because this is his moment. Bret storms out pissed, and at the time I thought he was legitimately pissed. In his book he stated this was done as a way to set up future matches between the two. I’m sure it was part of the story, but that “get out of the fucking ring” comment probably rubbed Bret the wrong way so he didn’t have to try too hard to be pissed. In a funny moment the camera pans to Bret’s son and they catch him singing “Sexy Boy.” Tremendous!

Winner and New WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels: 1-0 @ 61:53
-This is a fascinating match to watch after reading Bret’s book. He claims Shawn took some cheap shots and worked stiff at times. He responded in kind and it ended up being a potato fest in Bret’s words. I personally think the 0-0 storyline hurt the match. I prefer the Rock/HHH match because you had one having to play catch up. You never got that here, and it was obvious they were heading for 0-0 once we got towards the end of the match. Still, this was a tremendous match where both men deserve credit. The match may not be for everyone’s tastes due to the slow start, but you can’t fault the work. It loses a bit due to neither man wanting to do a job, a few botched moments, and the needless ref bump. I still don’t see why that belonged in this match.

4) Caribbean Strap Match: Savio Vega vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ****1/2 (WWF In Your House: Beware of Dog 2)

-They show footage from the match on Sunday and yeah, it was crazy dark in that arena. It’s amazing they even ran matches. Part of me wants to see those matches though and they should just throw them on The Network. Last night on RAW, Dibiase announced he would leave the WWF is Austin loses. If Savio loses he becomes Dibiase’s chauffeur. This match is the version where to win you have to touch all four corners in succession while dragging your opponent around the ring. Tug of War to start as they jockey for position. Savio swings and misses, so Austin bails to the floor. Back in and they reel each other in and Austin lands the first blow with a kick to the gut and then some clubbing blows to the back. Savio responds with a backdrop and takes another lash at Austin, but he rolls out again. Savio uses the strap to pull Austin into the ring apron and then lands a shot to the throat. The leather gets flying as Savio unloads on Austin including one that looked like it caught him in the head. Austin tries to run, but there is nowhere to go and he gets stuck on the apron for some more lashes. Savio with a suplex to bring Austin back into the ring. Roundhouse kick from Savio and he starts his journey around the ring and makes it to two corners, but gets yanked back reaching for the third. Now Austin puts the strap to good use, though Savio is wearing a shirt unlike Austin. It still probably sucks! They brawl on the floor where Austin runs Savio back first into the apron and then more lashes. Austin drops Savio throat first on the railing and then hangs him from the ropes on the apron. Heavy shot from the strap from Austin! Damn! Suplex brings Savio from the outside back in and from there Austin ties the strap around Savio’s leg. He drags to corner one and two, but Savio stops the momentum. He spins Austin around the ring and sends him into the corner. Savio uses the strap for a clothesline and Austin takes more lashes to the back and chest. Austin backdrops Savio to the floor, but since he is tied to him he ends up going up and over as well. Cool spot! Austin tries a suplex on the floor, but Savio blocks and gets one of his own. JR: “Would you want to be leaving the WWF?” Perfect: “Not now.” About 14 months later he would be in WCW. Back in the ring Savio drags Austin around the ring and gets to three corners, but Austin sweeps the leg to stop that. Austin swings the strap like and bat and catches Savio in the chest. Austin gets placed on the top and Savio lands some chops and goes to climb but Austin gets a headbutt to knock him down. Austin preps to come off, but Savio kicks him so that he crotches on the top rope. Savio gets a superplex as Dibiase loses his mind on the floor. He is selling the stakes of this one really well! Savio gets three corners, but Austin positions himself so that he is blocking Savio from the final corner and then catches him charging with a spinebuster. SWEET! Austin uses the middle ropes to choke and then drops his weight on Savio’s back. More choking in the corner and JR points out that in this match, a choke is legal. Austin gets two buckles, but Savio goes to the eye to stop that attempt to win. Austin responds with a right hand and then looks for a Tombstone. They keep reversing and it ends up with Savio falling over the top to the floor. Austin goes back to choking, but Savio lands a head kick. Austin heads up top with Savio on the floor and Savio yanks him down as Austin goes flying into the railing. OH MAN! You don’t see stuff like that from Austin, so you know he was feeling it here as he’s trying to gain traction in the company. Savio goes to a different strategy and carries Austin around to each corner. He gets three and runs for the fourth, but Austin pulls him bank forcing Savio to do a U Turn. The crowd is really getting into this one now! Austin plants Savio with a piledriver and Dibiase tells him to hit another one. Austin doesn’t see to think it’s needed but goes for it and gets backdropped. Austin hooks The Million Dollar Dream but Savio touches two buckles before fading. He kicks off the buckle in corner three to break the hold. Stun-gun drops Savio head first on the ring post. Austin wraps the strap around Savio’s neck and touches the buckles, but Savio makes sure to touch each corner as well. They get to three and the crowd is freaking out now. They struggle for the fourth and Austin gives a yank which sends Savio head first into the final buckle giving him the win at 21:24.

Winner: Savio Vega at 21:24
-This was great as they hit each other hard and built up some great drama that sucked the crowd into the match. Savio’s best match in the WWE and Austin’s best match until the Bret series launched him up the card later in the year.

3) Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ****1/2 (WWF Survivor Series)

-These two were made to feud! Winner gets a WWF Title Match at next month’s PPV. JR thinks this is going to come down to a submission and that will be the day! I mean Bret Hart and submission in the same sentence with Survivor Series? That’s just crazy talk! They come face to face to start and Austin flips Bret the double bird which draws an “ohhh” from the crowd. Lockup to start and Bret backs Austin into the corner. JR takes a shot at WCW by mentioning these aren’t two stars past their prime and I should point out Hogan vs Piper did a massive buy rate compared to this show, so it worked for them. He also goes back to how neither man has ever submitted and Vince asks how ironic would it be if Bret submitted to the Sharpshooter. “Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.” Yep! Bret controls the arm and gets a hammerlock as a loud “Lets go Bret” chant starts and it draws some boos from others in the crowd. Bret continues to control with the hammerlock, but Austin gets to his feet and gets a trip but Bret floats over and goes back to the hammerlock. Austin shoves off and lands a back elbow. He drops some elbows and connects with a short arm clothesline. Bret back to the arm for a bit, but Austin catches him charging and drops him with a stun-gun. Austin uses the bottom rope to choke and uses every bit of Tim White’s five count. Catapult into the bottom rope and back to the choking. Austin heads to the floor and hits a running elbow to the throat and then poses to the crowd as Bret tries to regroup on the floor. Reverse chinlock as Austin continues to work the neck. A knee gets a one count and then another as Austin keeps going for pins to force Bret to have to kick out. Bret gets to his feet and we have round one of them exchanging blows and Austin wins that round. He stomps away in the corner and chokes some more as he goes right back to the throat. Bret gets a reversal and sends Austin into the buckles before hitting a clothesline. He follows with an inverted atomic drop and then gets a roll-up for a two count. Side Russian Leg Sweep next and that gets another two count as Bret didn’t hook the leg. Bulldog is countered as Bret takes his sternum first bump into the corner. Always dope! Austin sets Bret up top for a superplex but Bret blocks and drops Austin on his face. Elbow drop gets a two count for Bret. Austin counters a back breaker with a rake to the face and he just tosses Bret over the top to the floor. Austin follows out and pounds away and then slides part way back in to break the count. I appreciate little touches like that so much! They fight and break the security railing and brawl in the crowd as the ref has stopped his count. Austin gets rammed into the railing causing it to fall over. We head back in the ring, but Austin rolls out on the other side. Bret gives chase and that’s a mistake as Austin slingshots him onto the Spanish Announce Table (which doesn’t break). Austin dives on top of Bret and they brawl on the Spanish Announcers as JR asks “Is Hugo hurt?” Austin slams Bret back on the table and then drops an elbow from the apron. Tables were just tougher in 1996! Suplex from the apron brings Bret back into the ring and Austin heads up to the middle ropes to drop another elbow. That gets a two count and there is a noticeable buzz throughout the crowd now. Austin is getting booed out of the building and he is just loving every moment of it. Now we get a “Lets Go Austin” chant as the fans have clearly picked a side. Austin goes to an abdominal stretch and uses the ropes to his advantage. Always works! The ref catches Austin and he is none too pleased. Our second round of punches begins and Bret wins this battle. The crowd is rocking with them now as Bret hits his own version of a stun-gun. Roll into a pin attempt gets a two count for Bret as that was a little sloppy. Swank piledriver from Bret gets a two count. I miss seeing piledrivers! Now Bret gets the back breaker, but gets stupid as he heads up top and as expected Austin is there to greet him. He unloads with right hands and now gets the top rope superplex. Bret gets a pin attempt off his back for two as Austin nearly got caught there. Bret walks into a Stunner, but it only gets two as Austin wasted a few seconds pulling Bret away from the ropes. Austin is frustrated as he keeps going for pins and Bret is out at two each time. Now Austin isn’t sure what to try next and opts for a Texas Cloverleaf, but Bret gets to the ropes to force a break. Bret gets thrown into the corner and takes a nasty bump as his leg gives way and he goes back first under the buckle and into the ring post. Nice! Austin to a Bow and Arrow, but Bret escapes and looks for The Sharpshooter. Austin gets to the ropes to stop that noise, so Bret just punches him in the face repeatedly. Bret gets a sleeper, but Austin breaks immediately in the corner and then sticks Bret with a jawbreaker. Austin slaps himself to clear the cobwebs and he goes to his roots with The Million Dollar Dream, but Bret uses the buckles to kick off into a cover and gets the win at 28:36.

Winner: Bret “The Hitman” Hart via pin at 28:36
-The ending was lifted from Bret’s match with Piper at WrestleMania VIII, but made sense as Austin was running out of things to try when The Stunner didn’t win it, so he went back to his finisher when he was with Dibiase. Bret knew the counter and Austin didn’t release the hold. He would learn that lesson when it happened to him again at Mania X-Seven against Rock. This started slow as they were setting the pace for the story they wanted to tell. It got great by the end as they hit the peak and then gave us a wonderful closing stretch before Bret pulled out the win.

2) WWF Title: No Holds Barred: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Diesel ***** (WWF In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies)

-Much like Hall, this was Nash’s last WWE PPV for nearly 6 years. As mentioned, Shawn had just won the WWF Title, for the first time, from Bret at Mania XII and this is his first defense. Diesel throws his jacket at Vince sitting at the announce desk. Lawler is loving it and cracks laughing. They show Mad Dog Vachon in the front row and Vince notes his career was cut short in a car accident. Shawn flashes the kliq/wolfpack sign as he makes his entrance just to signify his love for his best friend in the ring. All that went over my head back in 1996 as I had yet to start reading online wrestling reports. Actually, I didn’t even have the internet in my house until Jan of 1997. My son is going to read that one day and think I lived like a caveman. Shawn rushes to the ring, ducks a clothesline, and starts firing off punches, but one shot from Diesel snuffs out that run. Shawn floats over in the corner and hits a dropkick that sends Diesel to the floor. That lets Shawn take off his outer ring gear and then he hits a baseball slide. He comes off the top with a moonsault and then pulls the boot off Hugo at the Spanish Announce Table. He blasts Diesel with it and gets a two count. Diesel reverses a whip and Shawn bumps like someone on cocaine as he flips to the apron. Diesel knocks him off there and Shawn goes flying into the guard rail. Good stuff from Shawn there as he has no problem bumping his ass off for his best friend who is out the door. Short arm clothesline and while some of the crowd is pissed, others (with deeper voices) are thrilled with what Diesel is doing. Snake Eyes and Shawn goes flopping all over the place. Again, Shawn was truthful when he mentioned that when he faced bigger guys he would bounce around like a ball. Now, he may have went a little heavy with it against Hogan, but it wasn’t that unusual. Diesel talks trash to Jose and then hits an impressive jumping sidewalk slam. He put some STANK on that one! Diesel removes his wrist tape and you assume he is going to choke Shawn out, but instead he chokes out the ref. That allows him to take the ref’s belt and he lays into Shawn with it. That’s not a wide belt either, so that had to suck! Diesel uses the belt to strangle Shawn and even hangs him with it on the middle rope. Diesel tosses The Fink out of his chair, because screw him too and he hammers Shawn in the back with the chair. I love this version of Diesel! The cheers for Diesel are getting a little louder as he blasts Shawn again. He tries for another blow, but Shawn ducks and the chair bounces off the top rope and back into Diesel’s face. Now Shawn gets the chair, but Diesel gets in a low blow to Shawn’s little boy toys which gets a groan from the crowd. Massive backdrop from Diesel as Shawn just soared into the lights. That gets two as Vince just wants this one to end out of fear for Shawn’s safety. Diesel hooks a neck crank to slow things down a bit and let the crowd get behind Shawn to make a comeback. Shawn tries but Diesel just keeps knocking him down with forearms and Shawn keeps popping back up. One last one sends Shawn to the floor and Diesel follows as they are near the announce tables. DIESEL THEN POWERBOMBS SHAWN THROUGH LAWLER AND VINCE’S ANNOUNCE TABLE! SHAWN IS DEAD! Remember this is 1996 and for people not familiar with ECW this was heavy stuff. Bret got put through a table, but this was a POWERBOMB THROUGH A TABLE. Funny enough, about two months later Nash would hit a more famous one on Eric Bischoff of all people. Vince begs Shawn to just let it be over, but he is pissed and crawls out of the wreckage. He sets a fire extinguisher off in Diesel’s face and starts making his comeback. He connects with the flying forearm and then finds a chair and puts it to good use. Vince is begging Shawn to cover Diesel as we get a replay of the powerbomb. Diesel gets in a clubbing blow to the back as Shawn set too early on a backdrop. Diesel hits a big boot and signals for the powerbomb. A Diesel chant breaks out, but Shawn punches his way out of the powerbomb. He heads up top and drops the elbow and now he signals for Sweet Chin Music. Diesel catches the kick and tears Shawn’s head off with a clothesline to leave both men down. This crowd is rocking with them as there is a clear divide. Clothesline sends Shawn over the top and to the floor and again, Diesel gives chase. He drops Shawn throat first on the railing and rolls him back into the ring. Diesel then heads over to Mad Dog and ATTACKS HIM SO HE CAN REMOVE HIS PROSTHETIC LEG! Yes, this happened and it’s AWESOME! Now they are more boos for Diesel and all it took was him attacking someone who is handicapped. He goes to use the leg, but Shawn hits one of the best ball shots you will ever see. He just swung for the fences on that one! Damn! Shawn, babyface hero, uses a cripple’s prosthetic leg to deck Diesel (also treating the leg like a baseball bat) and then gets Sweet Chin Music for the pin at 18:35.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels via pin at 18:35
-I reviewed this match years ago as part of a Shawn DVD collection and even at **** I short changed it. I chalk that up to watching three discs full of ****+ matches. This was a war and Diesel went out of his way to put over his friend on his way out of the promotion. With that said, Diesel also looked like a monster here which is better than what a lot of people get when they leave for the competition. There will always be a debate between this match and Bret/Diesel at Survivor Series over which one is better and I will take this one. It wasn’t a really long match but even at 18 minutes it flew by and the crowd was into it the whole way. Some brilliant spots and Shawn taking a beating for a monster will always work.

1) WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Mankind ***** (WWF In Your House: Mind Games)

-Druids roll a casket out as Paul Bearer trails behind and Mankind pops out of the casket to some shrieks from some children in the crowd. Nice! Again I say, I loved the original Mankind character. JR says Mankind as WWF Champion will be challenging to market, and we would find out a few years later they would be able to figure it out. Shawn gets a strong reaction from the Philly crowd and Vince compares it to The Flyers winning The Stanley Cup. Yeah I wouldn’t know because thankfully it has never happened in my lifetime. I’ve seen my Pens win it 5 times! Have you seen The Flyers win The Cup? Shawn does a great job of conveying that he is nervous and apprehensive as this one starts. Mankind lands an elbow to the face and then stomps away. Shawn gets sent flying with a backdrop and then the Cactus Clothesline sends both men to the floor. Shawn charges and gets kicked into the railing. Mankind tears up the blue mat, but Shawn dropkicks him and then stomps on Mankind as he is trapped under the mat. Shawn heads up and comes off to the floor with a crossbody and then he splats Mankind’s head off the concrete. Back in he ring and Shawn comes off the top again and this time with a double axe. Mankind misses a clothesline and Michaels fires off right hands followed by a clothesline of his own. Some power from Shawn as he hits a slam and then heads up again. He drops the elbow and preps for Sweet Chin Music, but Mankind knows what’s coming and dives to the floor. He rocks out there with the urn and gets advice from Paul Bearer. Mankind goes back inside and the brawl is back on again. We get the working the smarts spot where it looks like Mankind screwed up a spot and Shawn throws a tantrum. Basically a way to work the fans after a real issue like that happened with Shawn/Vader at SummerSlam. Mankind nearly gets the Mandible Claw, but Shawn stops that with a well placed elbow and then he gets the mount. Ground and pound from Shawn for a bit, but Mankind just decks him with a right hand. To the floor again because why not and Mankind pulls the announce table out a bit. Shawn dives over the table with a flying forearm and hits a suplex that sends Mankind’s leg into the steps. That was brutal! My ankles hurt after that replay! Back inside Shawn goes to a chop block and then rams Mankind’s damaged knee on the top of the casket. Michaels continues to work the knee and even shoves the ref because pissed off Shawn is the best Shawn. Mankind comes back with right hands, but gets his leg caught and Shawn gets a leg drag. Figure Four follows and you can hear some boos from the fans in Philly. Mankind nearly gets counted out, but gets his shoulder off the mat and turns the hold to reverse the pressure. Michaels dropkicks the bad knee and steals a move out of Mr. Perfect’s playbook as he continues to work on the knee. He goes to a half crab, but Mankind gets to the ropes to force a break. Mankind lands a shot, but gets caught with a crucifix into a sunset flip for two. Shawn charges again and ends up getting dropped throat first on the top rope. Mankind gets a pen from Paul and stabs his knee to get feeling back in it which is an awesome character touch! He sends Shawn to the floor and then slaps at his knee some more. Mankind hammers away in the corner and hits the running knee that looked like it destroyed Shawn’s face. The replay made it look even better and Vince makes sure to point out Shawn’s concussion history. Mankind bites Shawn and then fires him face first into the mat. Perfect loses his train of thought trying to make a point and Vince calls him out for it. Shawn gets a belly to back suplex and starts firing back with right hands, but one kick from Mankind snuffs out that rally. Michaels slides to avoid and temporarily wins a punching match, but gets sent into the corner and bounces around so much he ends up on the Tree of Woe. Mankind follows with a diving double axe to the head and then another one. Leg drop to the back of the head and a boot to the face sends Shawn to the floor. Mankind follows as the Spanish Announce Table is still hanging out of place down there. Mankind misses a running knee and connects with the steps. Shawn then gets a drop toehold to send him back into the steps. Shawn tries a suplex back in and Mankind teases one to the floor which freaks out the women and kids in the crowd. Nice! They both end up on the apron and Mankind ends up going head first into the post. Back in the ring, Shawn gets a powerslam for two. Mankind then gets sent into the ropes and gets his head trapped (the move that cost him his ear vs Vader). Shawn walks right into the Mandible Claw and both men are down. They head to the floor and Mankind gets The Mandible Claw again. The Spanish Announcers get run over and then Mankind takes a swing and Shawn gets a chair up to block. He uses the chair to smash the mandible claw hand and then bites the claw back inside the ring. This match is just so great! Shawn stomps the hand because when you are in there with a maniac, you do whatever you can. He stomps away some more as the guard has come off Mankind’s hand, which shows it was never really disfigured. JR tried to cover saying it was the other hand. Shawn gets backdropped to the floor and Mankind drops the Cactus elbow from the apron to the floor. Mankind heads back out and hits a sick neckbreaker on the floor and the ref is pissed at both men. Shawn tries to crawl through the ropes, but Mankind is there with a leg drop and then a double arm DDT gets a good near fall. Stump piledriver gets another two count and then another. Another one has Mankind frustrated as he starts pulling his hair out. ECW chant breaks out as Mankind starts tossing chairs into the ring, but the ref tosses them back out. Mankind opens the casket and the crowd freaks out as Shawn gets tossed inside. He fights back out through and this war just continues! Flying forearm from Shawn and he stomps away in the corner. A slam and back up top for a crossbody that gets a two count. Shawn up again, but gets crotched on the top rope. Mankind heads to the apron and we get awesome spot where Mankind tries to belly to back, but Shawn turns and they both crash through the Spanish Announce Table that was moved about 20 minutes ago. Crazy spot for the time and still awesome now. Bearer distracts the ref as Mankind brings in a chair, but Shawn leaps off an open chair and hits Sweet Chin Music to send the chair back into Mankind’s face. Shawn gets off the cover though as Vader runs in for the DQ at 26:24. Bearer clocks Shawn with the urn, but Sid is out to take Vader out of the picture as the crowd is just losing it now. Mankind is up and he gets The Mandible Claw as the bell keeps ringing. The casket opens and The Undertaker comes out to blow the roof off the place and Mankind is screwed. Taker stalks Mankind to the back as Shawn is announced as the winner by DQ.

Winner: Shawn Michaels via DQ at 26:24
-Still awesome as they two just clicked. Foley has called this the greatest match of his career and it’s hard to argue against it. Shawn has credited this match with giving him a toughness the fans could believe and Foley did the same thing years later with HHH and Randy Orton. This was a different type of match from Shawn as he mixed his style with Foley’s and it gave us something special. I know we didn’t get a clean finish, but it ended with the crowd losing it and going home happy. It also kind of made sense considering how different this match. Still one of my favorites and a match that just flies by.

-Fascinating that the WWF took the top 5 spots even though WCW started dominating in the ratings by the end of the year. It ended up being a 6-6 split if you go through the top 12. That Shawn Michaels fella was pretty good in 1996 as well. I think 1989 will be next for me though that was a time of less PPV, but we had Saturday Night’s Main Event and Clash of the Champions to help fill the year. Thanks for reading!

article topics :

WCW, WWF, Robert Leighty Jr.