Continental Airlines Arena – East Rutherford, NJ – Sunday, August 3, 1997
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler are on commentary.
Mankind defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) at 16:25 in a Steel Cage match. This can only be won by escape. Helmsley tries to bail early on as Mankind does everything to keep in him in the cage where he can beat him up. Despite the presence of the cage, Chyna interferes on Foley every chance she gets, including a vicious punch to the stones. That allows Helmsley to bring Mankind down with a superplex. Helmsley goes on offense for a while, but Mankind continually fights back. Mankind goes to crawl out the door and Chyna slams the door on his head. Foley described that in his first book as one of the most painful things he’s ever endured. Chyna throws a chair into the cage and Helmsley goes for a Pedigree. Mankind counters into a slingshot that knocks Chyna off the cage! He then hits a Double-Art DDT on the chair. Mankind climbs up and out of the cage, while Chyna gets in the cage and tries to revive Helmsley and then just awkwardly leaves. That was weird. Mankind climbs back up to the top of the cage, rips open his shirt to (sort of) reveal a Dude Love tattoo, and he drills Helmsley with a flying elbow. He climbs up and over the cage while Chyna tries to drag Helmsley out the door (so she was early with her spot). Mankind lands first and gets the win. Fun opener here and a good way to blow off the feud. After the match Dude Love’s music plays and Mankind dances to it.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) defeats Brian Pillman at 7:15. If Pillman loses this match he will have to wear a dress tomorrow night on RAW. Momentum swings back and forth, and Pillman allows himself to be distracted by Marlena. Almost nothing of note happens until the finish, when Goldust badly blows a slingshot sunset flip and they roll around awkwardly trying to get in position for Marlena to hit Pillman with her purse. That’s enough for Goldust to get the pin, and Pillman will have to wear a dress now. Really terrible match here, not at all indicative of either guy’s best work.
The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) defeat The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) at 9:51. These two teams are feuding because the LOD broke HOG’s neck a few months back. That seems like a good reason. This is an all-out brawl both in and out of the ring, and the LOD controls early. They all meander around for a while and do some stuff, and the LOD finish HOG with a spiked piledriver. At least the finish made sense, but the match was tremendously dull.
European Champion British Bulldog defeats Ken Shamrock by disqualification at 7:29. Bulldog has been the Champion since 3.3.97, and this is his third defense. He said if he loses his title tonight he will literally eat dog food. This is a fight right from the bell, as Shamrock is angry and Bulldog has to try and fend him off. Thing stay pretty heated, as they fight both in and out of the ring. Bulldog tries to gain a mental advantage by shoving dog food in Shamrock’s face, but that just makes Shamrock snap. The referee can’t control Shamrock so he disqualifies him, giving Bulldog the win. Shamrock destroys Bulldog after the bell and then turns his attack on the WWE referees and officials trying to get him under control. The crowd is losing their minds for Shamrock here. Not a good match, and the finish was just awful.
Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Miguel Perez, Jose Estrada & Jesus Castillo) defeat The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, 8-Ball, Skull & Chainz) at 9:07. The crowd doesn’t seem to care about either quartet here. As people the fans barely know brawl with each other, the Nation of Domination (at this time – Faarooq, Kama Mustafa, Ahmed Johnson) make their way through the crowd and stand at ringside. Nothing much happens until Chainz picks a fight with Johnson on the floor. Johnson hits the Pearl River Plunge and Viera steals the win. This represents a dark time for tag team wrestling in the WWF.
Steve Austin defeats Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart to win the title at 16:16. Owen has been the Champion since 4.28.97, and this is his seventh defense. Michael Cole plays this year’s Todd Pettengill, as he tries to get a word with Austin on his way to the ring and gets brushed off. Owen attacks Austin’s knee before the bell and rams it into the ring post. Owen is known for the Sharpshooter just like Bret, so it’s a good strategy. Austin doesn’t take that crap for too long and now he goes on offense. He goes to work on Owen’s left arm. When Owen recovers he works on Austin’s hand and fingers, since he hates the middle finger being directed at him. Austin comes back with a Stun Gun and Owen tries to come back with a rana but Austin powerbombs him and then clotheslines him over the top rope. Owen starts walking back to the dressing room but Austin will have none of that. Owen recovers back in the ring and now starts working on the neck. Austin fires back with a clothesline out of the corner and goes for the Sharpshooter but it’s blocked and Owen hits a clothesline to knock Austin down. A German Suplex by Owen gets two. He then goes to the Camel Clutch, and puts it on the real way, not the sissy Scott Steiner way. Austin tries to make a comeback but Owen cuts him off with a DDT. Austin puts on a sleeper which Owen reverses to one of his own, which Austin escapes with a jawbreaker. Owen soon recovers and goes back to the neck. He uses the ropes for leverage and the referee breaks it up. Then comes the spot that would slightly alter the course of WWE history, as Owen delivers a sit-out tombstone piledriver (which became known as the Owen Driver ’97) to literally paralyze Austin. Referee Earl Hebner tries to see how Austin is doing, while Owen lamely taunts the crowd. Austin lays there for over a minute before weakly (not that anyone can fault that) rolling Owen up for the surprise pin. I’m sure the finish would have been better had the winner not been, you know, paralyzed, but the fact that he did anything at all is a miracle. I also don’t want to take away from the goodness of the rest of the match due to a freak accident, because this was a tremendous match up until the piledriver. Both guys tried a few things in the early going until Owen found something that worked (the neck) and then they really went with it. Austin is helped to the back by officials, so you know he’s really hurt.
Bret Hart defeats WWF World Heavyweight Champion Undertaker to win the title at 28:09. Shawn Michaels is the special referee here. Undertaker has been the Champion since 3.23.97, and this is his sixth defense. Bret attacks Undertaker with the belt before the bell, but that mostly just makes the Champ angry. Undertaker throws Bret around for a while, but the Hitman is able to withstand the attack and he target’s Undertaker’s legs. Partway through the match, Paul Bearer saunters out to ringside to distract the Undertaker. Michaels appears plenty unbiased throughout the match, though he lets himself get distracted by Brian Pillman and Owen Hart, and he doesn’t see Undertaker with Bret pinned after a Chokeslam. The match continues but Undertaker is pissed at Michaels. Bret uses Undertaker’s anger to his advantage, as the momentum swings back and forth between them. Late in the match, Bret delivers a superplex and then locks on the Sharpshooter but Undertaker breaks free! Bret tries the ring-post figure-four but Undertaker kicks off that and Michaels gets bumped in the process. The opportunistic challenger brings a chair in the ring and waffles Undertaker with it, but he only gets a two-count! Michaels gave a fair count too. He then finds the chair and asks Bret about, and Bret very clearly mouths “fuck you” before spitting in Michaels’ face. Michaels gets mad and swings the chair at Bret, but Bret moves and Undertaker takes the chair right to the head! Bret forces Michaels to make the count, since if he shows bias he can’t wrestle in the United States anymore. So the conflicted Michaels makes the count and Bret is a five-time WWE Champion, a status that only Hogan had achieved up to this point. The match was a good back and forth with some down time (could’ve been a little shorter), but the brilliant finish bumps it up several notches.
Very good and historic semi-main and main event matches make this at the very least a memorable show. The opener is also good, but in between the opener and the semi-main is a garbage dump of nonsense. But still, the good stuff is well worth seeking out for historical importance.