wrestling / Video Reviews

The SmarK Retro Repost – King Of The Ring 97

June 19, 2002 | Posted by Scott Keith

The Nameless Retro Rant for King of the Ring 97

– Welcome to the special, exclusive, RANTSYLVANIA-ONLY extended rant for King of the Ring 97. What’s different about it, you might ask? Well, in addition to the show itself, I’m going to include the awesome tag title switch that made Austin and Michaels the champions and set up their match for the show, PLUS all the qualifying matches for the actual tournament, PLUS the Free 4 All with a VERY interesting tag match. Okay, mildly interesting, but there’s interest, baby…there’s interest.

– WWF tag team title match: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog v. Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels. This is from May 1997, two weeks before King of the Ring. The angle is that Austin is feuding with the Hart Foundation, as is Shawn. But they don’t like each other much. The original main event of King of the Ring was supposed to be Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels, but they got into a fistfight the week before this match and the WWF (rightly) felt that it was both too risky to let them wrestle at that point, and too stupid to waste a potential money-match with real-life heat on a nothing show like King of the Ring. This match would mark the first appearance of a Vince Russo trademark: “Wacky tag champs who fight when they’re out of the ring”. Big brawl to start here. Austin & Owen go in the ring, with Austin getting a quick slam and the second-rope elbow for two. HBK comes in with a top rope shot on Owen and he works the arm. Bulldog comes in, and overpowers Shawn. Shawn hits an eyepoke to counter and a rana to come back, then steals the ENZUIGIRI OF DOOM from Owen to tweak him a bit. It gets two. Austin comes in and lays a beating on Bulldog. Shawn & Steve make some quick tags and control. Austin takes a cheapshot and Owen pulls him out for some damage. Commerical break follows. We return with Austin & Owen going again. Vince: “Austin…in the black tights”. Thanks, dude, I needed to be reminded there. Criss-cross and Owen gets a sleeper, countered with a jawbreaker. Hot tag to Shawn. Flying forearm to Bulldog, but Bulldog comes right back and presses Shawn onto the top rope crotchfirst. Shawn bails and Owen rams his back into the post. Back in, Shawn receives his own eyepoke, and a slingshot into the post for two. Powerslam gets two. Ref sends Austin out, and Owen hits an awesome gutwrench and legdrop for two. Owen goes to the chinlock, Shawn escapes but eats a belly-to-belly for two. Owen keeps getting in Austin’s face, and Austin keep losing his temper, allowing the Harts to pound on Shawn. Shawn gets a sunset flip, no ref. Bulldog rips his head off with a lariat for two. False tag to Austin allows more punishment for Shawn. Owen superplex attempt is blocked, and countered with a flying bodypress for two. Owen gets a leg lariat, but misses a blind charge. Hot tag to Austin, finally. Total carnage! I LOVE IT! Mudhole-stomping on Bulldog, but Owen blocks a stunner with a low blow. Ref escorts Owen out, HBK plays some sweet chin music for Bulldog, and Austin covers him for the pin and the titles at 12:24. The Hart Foundation swiftly lays in a total Shawn beating, as Austin casually walks away…and finds Bret. Austin DESTROYS him until the other Harts make the save. This whole match and angle rank as one of the best segments EVER to air on RAW. ****3/4


– Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Ahmed Johnson. Ahmed kicks the crap out of HHH. Jim Ross makes references about Ahmed’s gang roots, thus setting up the NOD turn. Scissor kick sets up a blind charge, which misses. He puts his head down and HHH USES THE KNEE~! Ahmed does something approximating selling for a bit, boring the crowd. Ahmed fights back and gets a spinebuster, but Chyna comes in with a chair and clocks him for a DQ at 3:37. Boring stuff. ј*

– Vader is injured, so the next week HHH gets ANOTHER shot…

– Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Crush. Kick and punch. And bowing. Crush gets a backbreaker, and follows it up…with another backbreaker. SMELL THE MOVESET! Crush gets a press-gutbuster for two. Crowd is ELECTRIFIED. It’s like the Rock came in and started reeling off his catchphrases one after another and singing “Smackdown Hotel”. That’s how OVER both guys are here. Hunter screws up his own facebuster (he was still studying the true art of USING THE KNEE~!, at that point). He gets a standing neckbreaker and tries the Pedigree, but Savio Vega interferes. Can YOU guess what happens? Yes, kids, very good, it backfires, and Hunter gets the pin to advance at 3:50. Crowd cheers because the match is FINISHED. ј*

– Jerry Lawler v. Goldust. This is taking place in Indiana, a regular USWA stop, so Lawler is just crazy over. Punches are exchanged. Goldust goes up and gets punched coming down. Piledriver, no-sold by Goldust. Goldust does his own, for two. Crowd starts a “Lawler” chant, reenergizing him. Wild. Lawler does some choking. Lots of it. Goldust comes back with a lariat, but a blind charge sends him to the floor. Lawler goes after Terri, suckering Goldust into chasing him back in, where he pins him with his feet on the ropes to a HUGE face pop. Match was lousy, but had tremendous heat. DUD

– Savio Vega v. Mankind. This is Mick’s first match post face-turn. Savio backdrops him on the ramp and follows with an INSANE tope that nearly overshoots Mick. LUCHA SAVIO~! Savio rams his head onto the ramp, and we head back in. Savio gets a sweet leg lariat in the corner, but a second try misses. Mankind with a backdrop suplex and Savio gets a lariat to send them both out. Mick stops to pound Lawler at ringside, and back in as Crush hits Savio by mistake and Mankind gets the pin at 2:49. ѕ* for the awesome bumping.

– Free For All match: The Headbangers v. Bart Gunn & Jesse Jammes. Since this was the team that pre-dated the New Age Outlaws, I guess you can just call them the Age Outlaws. Jesse had no direction, funkiness, or hair at this point. The match itself is horrible, as the Headbangers beat on Jesse FOREVER with boring stuff. Hot tag to Bart, who goes out with nary a whimper via Stage Dive at 6:03. Basically a squash. DUD

– And now, the PPV…

– Live from Providence, Rhode Island.

– Your hosts are Vince and Good Ol’ JR.

– Opening match, Semi-Finals: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Ahmed Johnson. Headlockery to start. Ahmed shrugs him off and yells something at the crowd that sounds like the lyrics to the Smackdown theme. Ahmed no-sells some weak HHH offense, and press-slams him, doing some reps using him a barbell. Steve Williams used to do that, too, and it’s STILL a cool spot. Hunter bails. Back in, HHH gets nowhere. Fascinating fact from JR: Ahmed was trained by Ivan Putski. This was during the period when Vince finally took the muzzle of JR and let him say EVERYTHING he wanted to. The problem then became shutting him up once he got into football backgrounds. Brawl outside sees HHH take over with a whip into the stairs and back in for some formal bowing. Hunter goes all lucha with a baseball slide, and comes back in with a forearm from the top for two. Ahmed shrugs him off and won’t sell. Bad, miscommunicated sequence follows, leading to Ahmed hitting an axe kick way off the mark (to HHH’s lower back!) and a spinebuster. Chyna distracts him, and BAM! Pedigree finishes at 7:34. That match was uglier than Ahmed. Ѕ* Crowd is completely deflated by the favorite to win going out.

– Semi-Finals: Mankind v. Jerry Lawler. Mick cuts a weird pre-match promo, lamenting the absense of his Uncle Paul (Bearer). He goes on a weird tangent about naked people, and finishes with a “Bang Bang”. Lawler of course has a mike and insults everyone in the front row. Brawl outside to start. Lawler runs away and stalls. Back in, the King plays “Fantom Foreign Object” to control. He tosses Mick as JR runs down Lawler’s career highlights. Lawler finds another foreign object (never seen, of course) and works on the ear with it. Thrilling stuff, no? Back outside for some brawling of the weak variety. Mankind takes a sick bump headfirst into the stairs, and another one into the railing. Good lord. No wonder he can’t remember where he lives. Lawler piledrives him on the floor. OH MY GOD, CALL AN AMBU…oh, wait, sorry, we’re not in Memphis. Mick fights to the apron, and Lawler…DROPKICKS HIM?!? JR is caught offguard by that one. Piledriver gets two. Mick fights back, driving a knee into Lawler’s face. Lawler sort-of gets a neckbreaker, and drops a fist. Piledriver is reversed, and the Mandible Claw finishes at 10:23. It’s Jerry Lawler, you were expecting something good? *

– Classic moment: Pillman is in the bathroom to cut some goofy promo, but Steve Austin sneaks up behind him and punks him out, then sticks his head in the toilet (with a camera conveniently set up above the bowl) and delivers…THE SWIRLY OF DEATH! Pillman, bless his soul, sells it. How they did this without completely losing it, I’ll never know.

– Crush v. Goldust. WHY, GOD, WHY? Brawl outside to start. Back in for some kick and punch from Goldust. Lariat gets two. Bagwellesque neckbreaker gets two. Crush comes back with a belly-to-belly for two. Crowd is actively bored. Crush works the back. Some vicious restholds follows. To pass the time, I come up with the top 10 rejected Kronic t-shirt slogans:

1. “Hey kids, smoking pot is cool!”

2. “Tammy Sytch is NOT our dealer.”

3. “Winners inhale.”

4. “Honest, officer, I was just holding it for Rob…”

5. “If you’re stoned, no one will notice how much you suck”

6. “Huh huh, he said ‘suck’ in the last one.”

7. “We’ve got two words for you…uh…sorry, we forgot…”

8. “If you’ve got some Doritos or Taco Bell, give me a HELL YEAH!”

9. “Was it you or me who used to be Adam Bomb?”

10. “Dammit, did you let Scott Hall sell you his lawn clippings AGAIN?”

Anyway, Goldbore makes the comeback but walks into a gutbuster. JR resorts to telling high school football stories about Dustin, noting that he was a defensive lineman and “covered sideline-to-sideline”. Do you really NEED me to make the Dusty Rhodes joke here, or can you do it yourself? Goldust mounts the comeback, but stops to beat up D-Lo and gets jumped. Back in, Goldust gets the DDT out of nowhere for the pin at 9:54. Wow, boring AND a dumb finish, what a combo. I think I need some of the Kronic’s medicinal marijuana to recover from gnawing my own foot off in boredom. DUD

– The Hart Foundation v. Sid & The Legion of Doom. I don’t forsee much selling here. JR notes that Kerry Von Erich once called Sid the toughest man he ever faced. Sid was Kerry’s drug dealer? Animal and Owen do a nothing sequence that sees Animal bumping him all over. On the anti-WWF side of the Owen lawsuit, if he was still alive he could be having ****+ matches with Benoit & Jericho as we speak. Sid no-sells some stuff and the faces beat up Bulldog. Anvil v. Hawk…who sells first? Actually, yes. Anvil suckers Hawk into the corner and he just HAS to get piledriven so he can no-sell it. Animal comes in, and since he’s the only one on the team even CLOSE to professional, he gets to be face-in-peril. Standard stuff here. JR goes into METAPHOR OVERDRIVE, and I’m waiting for some patented Jim Ross Mixed Metaphors ™. They never come. Bulldog superplexes Animal for two. More beatings. It’s a free country, so I exercise my right to FAST-FORWARD as the announcers shill Canadian Stampede. Hot tag Hawk, then hotter tag to crowd fave Sid. He tries to powerbomb Bulldog, and Owen comes off the top with a sunset flip for the pin at 16:51, shocking the crowd. This was Sid’s final appearance on WWF PPV. Ѕ*

– King of the Ring: HHH v. Mankind. Wristlock stuff to start. Mick chokes him out. HHH bails. This is exciting stuff. They brawl a bit, and HHH rests outside. Well, I didn’t need that 5 minutes of my life anyway. HHH gets a neckbreaker and does some choking. It’s no Rumble 2000 street fight, that’s for sure. Slugfest, and HHH catches him with a clothesline. Punch, kick, punch. Mick misses the Cactus clothesline and hits the floor. HHH baseball slides him and lays some shots in. Back in, HHH works the neck. Anyone who complains that the Iron Man match was boring should be forced to watch THIS. Mankind gets a stungun for two. They fuck up…something…as the crowd gets seriously restless. This match has zero heat. Out to the floor, where Mick drops a Cactus elbow (no Bang Bang). JR goes into his little “How do you learn to fall on concrete, smart guys?” spiel against skeptics. Mick actually answered that question in his book: With practice. Back in, double-arm DDT gets two. Pedigree is reversed and the Claw applied, but Chyna pulls him off and out. Back in, HHH rips off the mask, annoying Mick. Cactus clothesline, but HHH dodges an elbow and Mick takes the Nestea Plunge. HHH Pedigrees him through the announce table and Mick is in bad shape. Chyna smashes the sceptre over his head for good measure, and HHH knocks him off the apron, into a photographer. Back in, all that gets two. Pedigree finishes at 19:24, and HHH is the King of the Ring. Who decided to give them TWENTY MINUTES??? *

– Shawn Michaels v. Steve Austin. Pre-match, Bret and the Hart Foundation come out and issue an open challenge for Canadian Stampede. Austin & Shawn are the tag champs at this point, but they don’t like each other very much. Austin knocks him down and flips him off to start. We head out and back in, as Shawn gets a quick armdrag…and flips AUSTIN off. Odd moment as Vince Russo accidentally falls over the railing from his position at ringside…oh, wait, sorry, that’s a Special Olympian. My mistake. Shawn helps him to the back. Back in the ring, they trade armbars. Shawn tenaciously holds a headlock. Don’t see much of that these days. Austin breaks out and mocks HBK’s pose. Nice little mat reversal bit puts Shawn in control with a chinlock, into a full headlock. Criss-cross, and Austin counters a Thesz press attempt with an atomic drop, and he dumps Shawn out. Back in with a suplex, which Shawn reverses to a rollup for two. Shawn goes to the arm. Test of strength is offered by Austin, and Shawn accepts, like an idiot. Once in that position, Austin kicks the crap out of him. Shawn comes back with a backdrop for two. Austin drops two elbow, but Shawn goes back to the arm. Criss-cross and Austin gets the Thesz press…which is reversed into a pinfall attempt by Shawn, and they go into an Eddy-ish pinfall reversal sequence. WHOMPASS! Take that, Russo-lovers! It ends with Austin kicking out of a backslide and tossing Shawn. Steve pounds him coming in, sending him crashing to the railing in a Pillmanesque bump. Austin heads out and drops him on it again. Shawn fights back, but gets sent to the stairs. Steve press-slams Shawn face-first to the concrete in a sick bump. We head back in, where Shawn gets a surprise inside cradle for two. Austin drops an elbow for two. He hits the chinlock, cheating for good measure. Shawn fights back, and they slug it out. Steve gets tossed, and Shawn baseball slides him. He suplexes Austin back in, but it’s reversed into an irish whip. Shawn rebounds with the flying forearm and a backdrop, however. Atomic drop, but a blind charge goes WAY wrong. Austin stomps a mudhole, but Shawn gets a cross-body out of the corner, which is reversed for two. Lariat gets two for Austin. Cross-corner whip, reversed, and the ref is bumped. Superkick is countered with the Stone Cold stunner as JR has an Oklahomian reaction at ringside. Austin revives the ref…and stunners him. Shawn superkicks Austin as another ref runs in…and checks on the first ref. What a tool. Shawn rightly kicks his ass. He wakes up the first ref, who counts two for Shawn. A third ref finally runs in and stops the whole thing at 23:00 for the Sports Entertainment Finish. BOOOOOOOOO! If that match had a finish, it’s a MOTY candidate, but as it stands we’ll go ****1/4 and leave it there. Man, did Austin have a run of great matches in 1997 or what? This one LITERALLY saved the show.

– WWF World title match: The Undertaker v. Faarooq. What, you mean YOU wouldn’t buy a PPV with the promise of seeing this classic? Faarooq jumps UT, which doesn’t accomplish much. Powerslam gets two. The NOD lays the beats on UT. UT comes back and works the arm in plodding fashion, stopping to hit the NOD with a tope off the ropewalk. Neat spot. Back in, ropewalk again, but the NOD knocks himoff. Faarooq gets a suplex for two. More shenanigans from the Nation. To the floor, where Faarooq eats stairs. Back in, UT punches a lot. Faarooq gets a quick piledriver for two as the announcers declare him the new champion. Uh huh. We HIT THE CHINLOCK, BABY. At least he cheats. UT block and reverses the Dominator, but a legdrop misses. Faarooq tries a cross-body, but gets powerslammed. Flying clothesline misses. Much standing around follows. Savio & Crush argue, distracting Faarooq. Tombstone, sionara, at 13:40. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??? Put Faarooq in a MAIN EVENT, against the worst wrestler on the roster to carry someone like him, and then give it nearly fifteen minutes? No wonder WCW was kicking their ass. –*

The Bottom Line: With everything but one match at * or less, this would be an easy candidate for worst PPV ever, but Shawn Michaels saves the day, as usual. Amazingly, Shawn was coming off that crippling smile-ectomy, too. What a trooper.

Strong recommendation to avoid.


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Scott Keith

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