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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF King of The Ring 1997

June 19, 2022 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
WWE King of the Ring 1997 Triple H Image Credit: WWE
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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF King of The Ring 1997  

-We continue on journey through 1997 as WCW and WWF battle with June PPVs. First up is King of The Ring and when I get back from vacation with the family, I’ll get to Great American Bash 97. Let’s get to it!

-Commentary Team: Vince McMahon and JR
-June 8, 1997
-Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
-Attendance: 9312
-PPV Buys: 177,00

King of The Ring Semi-Final Match: Ahmed Johnson vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna)

-Vince and JR both have Ahmed as the favorite to win this tournament, so that doesn’t bode well for him. Winner of this gets winner of Mankind/Lawler later tonight. JR covers that these two already fought in the opening round with Ahmed winning by DQ. HHH was put back in the field due to a ref error in the match and beat Crush to advance. The crowd is jacked for Ahmed! Lockup and Ahmed shoves Hunter on his ass to start. Side headlock from Hunter, but he gets shoved off and bounced down with a shoulder. Ahmed fires up the crowd and wants a test of strength. Seems like a bad idea which Hunter knows as he pretends to play along and kicks Ahmed in the gut. He fires off a chop in the corner which Ahmed no sells. Gorilla Press Slam from Ahmed and Hunter bails to the floor. This is Hunter doing his impression of a Flair/Luger match. Not a bad way to go! Poke to the eye from Hunter which is smart and you can see him whisper something to Ahmed in the corner. Irish Whip and Ahmed bounces out and hits a clothesline. An elbow drop misses and Hunter sends Ahmed to the floor. He sends Ahmed into the stairs back first and the crowd boos Hunter as he celebrates in the ring. Baseball slide knocks Ahmed off the apron. Back in the ring we go as Hunter heads up top and comes off with a forearm which gets two. Something gets botched as they didn’t seem to be on the right page. A second go and Ahmed hits a scissors kick followed by a backdrop. Weak spinebuster from Ahmed. Chyna is up on the apron to stop the Pearl River Plunge which lets Hunter bury a knee in the back and The Pedigree finishes clean at 7:43.

Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley via pin at 7:43
-Basic match with Hunter bumping all over the place. A couple of awkward spots, but it didn’t over stay it’s welcome and thankfully no prolonged rest holds. *1/2

King of The Ring Semi-Final Match: Mankind vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler

-Mankind had started his face turn as the sit-down interviews with JR had just aired to soften the character. We go back to RAW as Mankind beat Savio Vega to advance. Mankind cuts a promo before the match asking where Uncle Paul has gone. He talks about there being cruel and benevolent kings and asks the crowd what kind of king they want him to be. He continues by talking about Lawler walking around naked and the only thing worse would be himself walking around stark naked. Definitely softened the original Mankind character! Todd is backstage with Lawler as we see him advance with a win over Goldust. Lawler shoves Todd aside and takes the mic so he can insult everyone in the crowd as he makes his entrance. “Does your parole officer know you are out so late?” He continues to make jokes about Mankind, JR, and Vince McMahon. Mankind has had enough as the bell sounds and they brawl on the floor. Mankind bites Lawler on the face and gouges the eyes. In the ring Lawler begs off, but Mankind delivers right hand after right hand. He preps for the Mandible Claw, but Lawler bails to the floor. JR mentions Lawler is the King of USWA and King of Memphis as he was trained by Jackie Fargo. Phantom Illegal Object from Lawler as he goes to his tights and pounds away. Bulldog from the King and then he dumps Mankind to the floor. The crowd hates Lawler! The man knows how to work a crowd! Lawler targets the deformed ear and even bites it. Back to the phantom object as that is so brilliant in that the crowd always bites on it. Mankind fights back and sends Lawler into the railing and then again. He charges at Lawler near the steps, but Lawler is out and Mankind goes head first into the stairs. Nasty bump as Lawler throws Mankind back and head first into the railing. Sick! Lawler hits a piledriver on the floor and if this was Memphis they would be bringing out a stretcher and likely fitting Mankind for a casket. Lawler hits a dropkick that sends Mankind off the apron. Back in the ring Lawler hits another piledriver and Mankind is out at two. JR takes a shot at WCW as he mentions “at least I don’t have to call it an International object.” Mankind fights back and decks Lawler. He buries a knee in the corner and hits a backdrop. Another corner spot, but this goes way wrong as it seemed Mankind was thinking backdrop and Lawler wanted a neckbreaker and they just kind of fell in a heap. Lawler drops a fist off the middle ropes, but gets caught with The Mandible Claw and he is out at 10:24.

Winner: Mankind via submission at 10:24
-Started out okay and then kind of fell apart towards the end. The crowd was into it and Foley bumped like crazy as you would expect. Better than the opener, but not by much. *3/4

-Todd is in the back with Brian Pillman who cuts a promo on Austin, not knowing Austin is standing right behind him. Austin attacks and tosses Pillman into a nearby bathroom where he gives him a swirly.

Crush (w/ The Nation of Domination) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena)

-Goldust also got the sit down interview treatment with JR and is now popular with the fans after having his story told. They openly talk about him being the son of Dusty Rhodes now. Lots of punching from Goldust to start and he gets the crowd into the match with the 10 punch count in the corner. He also gives Crush a kiss. Clothesline from Crush as JR talks about Marlena being a makeup artist for Larry King. Powerslam from Crush and some forearms to the back. More shots to the back as the crowd is losing interest in this one. Goldust rallies back a bit, but can’t get a slam due to the damage to the back. Another shot to the back gets Crush a two count. Weak camel clutch from Crush which lets JR and Vince talk about the first King of the Ring back in 86, JR wanted to come to the show, but Bill Watts wouldn’t give him the day off apparently. The wax more history about King of The Ring since nothing is happening in the match. Best wishes to Gorilla Monsoon who has been under the weather. Anything else we need to work in as we kill time? Crush tries to maintain the hold, but ends up taking a ball shot. Gorilla Press from Crush that he turns into a gut buster for two. Now JR is on to Goldust’s high school football career. Just wait until the Main Event when Simmons is out there! Right hand and clothesline from Goldust which actually wakes the crowd up a bit. D-Lo and Clarence surround Marlena which gets Goldust’s attention. He decks D-Lo, but Crush hits him from behind. Back in the ring Crush sets to early and eats a DDT to finish at 9:56.

Winner: Goldust via pin at 9:56
-Not good as the bulk of the match was a camel clutch to just kill time and everything else was punching for the most part. Goldust winning is fine, but probably could have shaved 4 minutes off this one. 1/2*

-Dok is backstage with The Legion of Doom and Sid. They cut their typical screaming and yelling promos to hype their match with The Hart Foundation.

-Todd is backstage with The Hart Foundation and they offer their retort.

The Hart Foundation (Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart) vs. The Legion of Doom and Sycho Sid

-The “SID” pyro sign is always sweet! Animal and Owen are going to start this one out as the crowd is really into LOD and Sid. Duh! Animal tosses Owen across the ring as he has the power advantage. Again, Duh! Slam from Animal but he misses an elbow and then nothing happens as something seemed off there. Flapjack from Animal and a slingshot into the corner. Powerslam gets two. Tag to Sid and he comes off the middle rope with a double ax. Anytime Sid comes off the ropes I immediately think of what happened to the poor guy in WCW. Bulldog gets the tag and we get some posing. The crowd is digging this match even if nothing is really happening. Bulldog gets the delayed suplex on Sid which shows his power. Sid no sells of course and decks Owen and The Anvil on the apron. Speaking of no sell, he comes Hawk. Bulldog is out as Anvil tags into the match. They take turns no selling and Hawk wins that battle. He comes off top with a flying clothesline for two. Owen and Bulldog come in the ring too early as Anvil was in the wrong corner, but they get it right on a second go as this one is all over the place. No sell from Hawk leads to a dropkick which Anvil no sells. Good gracious! Bulldog in and he hits a piledriver, but yeah, even that doesn’t work as Hawk beats Bulldog to his feet. Animal back in and he gets dropped with a spinning heel kick from Owen. Animal gets sent to the floor and tossed into the stairs. Anvil uses a chair for good measure. Back in the ring a snap suplex gets two for Owen as Vince invokes the name of The Dynamite Kid. Animal gets a sunset flip as Anvil tags in, but the ref is preoccupied with Owen and Bulldog. Owen back in the match and the Hart Foundation work Animal over in their corner. Hawk tries to rush in, but the ref gets him back to the apron as they are losing the crowd in this one. Double clothesline and Bulldog is back in the match. He hits a slam, but gets caught coming off the ropes and Animal gets a slam. They fight up top and Bulldog gets a superplex for two. Animal gets worked over in the wrong corner again and Hawk tries to save again, but the ref cuts him off…again. Anvil hooks a chinlock as that is the last thing this match needed. Nice battering ram from Owen as he gets tossed by Anvil into Animal. That gets a two count as JR mentions next month WWE has a PPV in Calgary. Oh yes! Sleeper from Owen as it feels like they are just stretching this match for time. A tag is made to Hawk and he hits a slam and heads up top. He misses a head butt and Bulldog gets the tag. He hooks a leg and the Harts make quick tags. Hawk hits a double clothesline and falls down before making the tag to Sid. That wakes the crowd up some and now everyone starts brawling in the ring. Bulldog eats a chokeslam and the powerbomb is next, but Owen is the legal man and comes off top for a botched sunset flip which gets the win at 13:38.

Winners: The Hart Foundation via pin at 13:38
-This was a mess as they didn’t seem to be on the same page and nobody wanted to sell anything for a majority of the match. Amazing how they took the seeds of thise and made a 10 man tag the following month that tore the house down. *

-We look back at Stone Cold winning King of The Ring the previous year.

-Todd is backstage with Mankind and he isn’t going down for anyone tonight. He quotes Lion King with “I just can’t wait to be King.” Eh, Aladdin is my Disney movie of choice. “Prince Ali” is a banger and “A Whole New World,” is one of my 10 favorite songs of all time.

King of The Ring Finals: Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna)

-JR: “Hunter probably thinks it’s his birth right to be King of WWF.” Probably until KHAN came along! Though considering the recent issues Vince is having, it could end up happening. Lockup to start and a side headlock from Hunter. He pulls the hair and gets a warning from the ref. Another go and another side headlock. More hair pulling and another warning. JR brings up Dude Love and that would be coming in a few months. Mankind stomps away in the corner and bites as well. Hunter avoids the Mandible Claw and bails to the floor. Back in the ring Hunter rakes the eyes as JR goes over the history of both men. JR: “Has Helmsley ever tried to buy the WWF?” Huh! JR’s unfiltered commentary is the one thing keeping me invested in these matches at this point. More biting from Mankind, but Hunter drops him face first on the top buckle. Hunter kicks away in the corner and noticeably whispers the next spot to Mankind. That would be Irish Whip into a neckbreaker. This crowd is just dead and thankfully these two would find their chemistry and realize wild, crazy brawls was the way to go in future meetings. Chyna gets in a cheap shot which almost gets the crowd into this one. Mankind with a mule kick to the balls, but misses a charge and gets hung up in the ropes in the spot that ripped off his ear against Vader. Head first bump into the railing and then a trip to the stairs is next for Mankind. It sounded like a faint “Sabu” chant started, but I could be wrong. A “boring” chant can clearly be heard though. Now the crowd is starting to boo as we are ten minutes into this match without much of note happening. Stun Gun nearly misses though it gets two for Mankind. Another one and it gets another two count. Then Mankind nearly DDTs himself on whatever they were trying to do and the crowd is turning on this one. Running knee in the corner from Mankind. Hunter takes an upside down bump on the corner and Mankind hits the double ax in the corner. Hunter gets tossed to the floor and maybe then can do something down there to wake up this crowd. Baseball slide misses, but HHH charges and gets backdropped on the floor in the aisle. Cactus Jack elbow follows and we finally get a smattering of applause. Back in the ring Mankind hits a double arm DDT, but Chyna distracts the ref and it lets Hunter kick out at two. Pedigree is turned into a backdrop which Hunter tries to get a sunset flip, but Mankind gets the Mandible Claw. Chyna pulls Mankind to the floor over the ref (which the camera misses). They do show a different angle so we can see what happened. Mankind gets his neck snapped off the top rope, but gets back in the ring. The mask gets removed as Hunter heads up top. Mankind catches him up there with The Claw, but a thumb to the eye counters. Inverted Atomic Drop and clothesline gets two for Mankind. Cactus Clothesline sends both men to the floor. Sick bump as Mankind tries a reverse elbow from the apron, but Chyna pulled Hunter out of the way and Mankind just went back of his head first into the railing. Back into the steps as Hunter preps the old school announce table. Pedigree up there breaks the table by sheer force as that looked like it had to suck. Only took them 17 minutes to realize a street fight would be the best way to go. Chyna is down and she blasts Mankind with a scepter. Hunter hits a knee that sends Mankind off for another Nestea Plunge and this one on a nearby photographer. Mick is trying to kill himself to get the crowd into this one. Back in the ring a one handed pin only gets two. So Hunter just plans him with a Pedigree and that finally finishes at 19:27.

Winner and 1997 King of The Ring: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
-This was not good as it saw the crowd turn on it in spots and by the time they got to Mankind taking crazy bumps it finished. Mankind was toast in the final minutes and there were no hope spots as Hunter wins clean as a sheet. *1/2

-Todd presents Hunter with his royal robe and crowd. He uses the crown to beat on Mankind which draws some boos, but not as many as they were likely expecting. Hunter gets introduced as our new King and bows before taking his leave. Mankind crawls on his hands and knees after them to show that he just won’t quit.

-Video Package for Austin/Michaels as they became WWF Tag Team Champions after taking the Titles from Owen and Bulldog, but they don’t trust each other and want to fight each other. This was supposed to be Bret vs Shawn from what I remember, but Bret is still out with his knee injury. So Austin/Shawn seemed like a suitable replacement. Great moment after they won the Tag Titles and Austin ignored Shawn getting destroyed by 4/5 of the Hart Foundation so he could put a beating on a wheelchair bound Bret Hart. Great stuff!

-The Hart Foundation is out as Bret Hart will be joining JR and Vince on commentary. Bret takes a mic from Todd to let us know he is close to being cleared. He introduces his team and it’s sad realizing everyone but Bret has left us way too early. Bret issues a challenge for a 10 Man Tag at Canadian Stampede. Can’t wait until I get to that show! Officials are down to get The Hart Foundation away as Bret takes Vince’s headset. Bret is getting screwed here it seems…hope that doesn’t become a trend. Pillman acts like a maniac which makes me laugh! Fun stuff, but just another way to kill more time.

-Austin is backstage and lets us know he is The Captain of the Tag Team. He doesn’t want to cripple Shawn as he needs to keep his around so they can keep the titles, but he will turn up the violence if Shawn pushes him.

-Austin runs into the Hart Foundation as he heads to Gorilla, but nothing physical as we just get some bird flipping and cursing.

-Shawn is backstage and he doesn’t want to hurt Austin because he knows The Hart Foundation wants him to do it. He is also conflicted as he doesn’t want to do anything to ruin their run as Tag Champions.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels

-They stare each other down and we get a second bell for some reason, but I am rolling with the one we heard the first time. Austin gets a side headlock and then mows Shawn down with shoulder. Steve then flips Michaels the double bird. The match comes to a halt as a Special Olympian falls over the railing and Shawn tries to make peace with the security. Austin attacks because I mean, who is he to let a Special Olympian stop his chance to gain an advantage. Back in the ring, Shawn gets an armdrag and Austin bails to the floor so they can get back to helping the kid on the floor. Shawn heads back out and helps escort the young man up the ramp with security. Good for Shawn! Now we can start proper as Austin gets an arm ringer, but Shawn reverses and gets a side headlock take down. Austin shoves off and lands a back elbow and then a clubbing forearm to the back of the head. Shawn rolls through to escape and goes back to the headlock. JR uses this as a chance to mention Austin’s dad played for Rice when they last made it to The Cotton Bowl. Thesz Press blocked by Austin as he catches Shawn with an inverted atomic drop. He then clotheslines Shawn to the floor who sells it by flipping ¼ of the up the aisle. Suplex back in the ring is escaped which lets Shawn get a roll-up for two. Hammerlock from Shawn as they continue with a deliberate pace. Austin gets to the ropes to break and walks up the aisle to regroup. Back and Austin wants a test of strength. What is this, Warrior/Hogan? Austin goads Shawn into it by calling him chicken which always worked on McFly. Austin breaks Shawn down with the hold as I am baffled why they are spots straight out of 80s WWF power guy matches. Shawn up and he kicks his way out of the hold and gets a backdrop for two. Elbow misses from Shawn and then one misses from Austin who knocked the cameraman off the apron in the process. You can hear someone laughing about it on camera. Armbar from Shawn, but then Austin catches him with a Thesz Press and pounds away. Shawn turns that into a pin attempt and they go through a Flair/Steamboat pin-fall sequence before Shawn takes his normal, crazy corner bump over the top to the floor. JR is going a bit overboard with his praise for the reaction this match is getting as I know he called shit in the NWA with a crowd that was deafening. Austin pulls the mats up on the floor and then drops Shawn throat first on the security rail. They brawl on the concrete which Austin wins as he tosses Shawn into the stairs. Austin shows some power as he presses Shawn above his head and drops him on the concrete. Nice! Austin stops the ref’s count and drags Shawn back into the ring. Shawn ducks a clothesline but crashes and burns trying a clothesline so much that he flies under the ropes and to the floor. Back in the ring Shawn gets a flash small package for two. Austin with a snapmare and heads to the middle ropes. He connects with the elbow and that gets two. Side headlock from Austin and he makes sure to put his feet on the ropes for good measure. So simple and it always works! The ref finally catches Austin cheating and forces a break of the hold. That give Shawn a chance to regroup and it’s round two of their fist fight. Shawn dumps Austin to the floor and follows with a baseball slide. The loudest response is the boos from the men in the crowd as they don’t care for Shawn. Austin escapes a suplex, but gets caught with a flying forearm. Another backdrop from Shawn followed by an atomic drop. A charge in the corner catches nothing but steel as Austin steps out of the way. Shawn gets his tights pulled down a bit which has the women screaming. Shawn off the middle rope with a cross-body for two, but Austin is back with a clothesline for two. Another Shawn corner bump and then the ref gets bumped. Sweet Chin Music is blocked and Austin hits The Stunner, but the ref is gone. Austin goes for the ref and gives him a Stunner. Shawn with SCM and a second ref hits the ring to check on his brother in stripes. Shawn hits that ref with SCM before the original ref makes a two count. A third ref is here and he throws this match out at 23:10.

Winner: Double DQ at 23:10
-Horrible ending to a slow paced match that got really good in the final five minutes or so. I know they didn’t want either man losing and were stuck with not having a big time match due to Bret’s injury, but they probably could have done better than this. As for the match it built nicely, but that opening 12 minutes or so kind of dragged a bit. Not the classic that I remember thinking this was twenty five years ago, but still quite good with a bad ending. ***1/4

-The crowd chants “bullshit” as Shawn and Austin leave together with their Tag Titles.

-Todd is backstage with The Nation as Faarooq has a chance to become the first African American to win the WWF Title.

-Dok is backstage with The Undertaker, but Paul Bearer takes over the interview. He is black mailing Taker with some horrible secret and tells him to do what he says.

WWF Championship: The Undertaker (c) (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Faarooq (w/ The Nation of Domination)

-Why no uproar twenty five years ago when Faarooq lost his last name? JR doesn’t waste anytime as he mentions Faarooq’s career at Florida State and how he finished in the Top 10 of Heisman voting. Yeah, Ron legit was a big time stud in college football. Faarooq jumps the bail, but Taker tosses him in the corner and starts throwing lefts and rights. Clothesline next, but an elbow misses. No worry though as Taker lands a big boot which gets two. Powerslam from Faarooq gets a two count. Savio and Crush assault Taker while the ref’s back is turned. Corner charge is blocked by a boot from Taker. Old School from Taker which wasn’t really Old back then, but it’s what it’s called now. Taker opts to just leap off the ropes though and dives on The Nation. He slugs each one of them down and then drops Faarooq throat first over the top rope. Old School Take Two, but the ropes get rattled and Taker lands ball first on the top rope. Snap suplex from Faarooq gets two and Taker sits up. This has been a long five minutes! Taker gets to the ropes to stop another count. More interference from The Nation and then Taker gets dumped to the floor. Faarooq charges with the steps, but Taker boots them back into his face. Soup Bones from Taker back in the ring, but he sets early on a backdrop and Faarooq stick with a piledriver for two. It took eight minutes but we finally hit a rest hold as Faarooq goes to a chinlock. More college football talk from JR! Faarooq also uses the ropes for leverage, though he isn’t as sneaky about it as Austin was which makes this ref look stupid. Taker rallies and hits a version of The Stunner to break the hold. Taker tries for a splash, but catches knees. Another piledriver is blocked and then turned into a backdrop. Taker tries to drop the leg, but Faarooq is out of the way. Charge by Taker hits knees. Faarooq comes off the middle ropes, but gets caught with a powerslam. Taker misses a flying clothesline as the boring chants start again. Been quite a few of them tonight and I tend to agree. Savio and Crush get into it on the floor which gets the attention of Faarooq. Sure, WWF Champion, The UNDERTAKER needs a distraction to beat Faarooq clean. Tombstone finishes at 13:41.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: The Undertaker via pin at 13:41
-Much like a lot of the matches from tonight this was boring. The ending was also weird and came from out of nowhere. Not a fan of this one at all. 1/2*

-Taker takes out Savio and Crush after the match and then Paul Bearer orders Taker to hit Faarooq with a chokeslam. Then another! And Another! Ahmed Jonson hits the ring and tries to talk sense into Taker which sets up Ahmed’s heel turn and what was supposed to be his shot at Taker the following month. Taker tries to land a right hand, but Ahmed ducks and drops him with a Pearl River Plunge. The crowd doesn’t like that! Taker sits up and teases going after Paul, but nothing comes of that just yet.

-Thanks for reading!

The final score: review Bad
The 411
This is a one match show and that one match didn't even have a winner. The pieces for WWF's comeback against WCW were there, but it took a good while for them to all mesh together. A really bad show which is weird know that a month later they delivered an all time classic, but we will get to that next month. As for this show the word that keep coming to my mind as I watched was BORING. If not for Shawn/Austin this goes down as one of the worst PPVs of all time.