Hey guys, it’s me again. Back with another Vintage recap. These things have been great so far and I hope you’re enjoying them, too.
— I’m in the process of moving right now so pardon last week. Moving is the worst and I want to kill everything I own with fire.
— I figured it’d be good to give weekly updates on where I am in the Network so you can keep up with my random tweets. So here goes: at around the 1998 mark, I got so fascinated by WCW becoming a car wreck that I abandoned WWF and just started watching WCW until its demise. I guess I’ll get to 1998 by 2016 or something so spoiler alert: WCW gets really bad really quickly. I can’t wait to recap those events…I may even skip ahead. Anyway, I’m currently at Great American Bash 99′. Basically I keep the Network on while I work as it’s mostly background noise so I move pretty fast. I just watched a match where Sting was attacked by dogs.
— Back to me moving: I’m going to be in Atlanta so definitely let me know what Indy shows are going on there and the wrestling scene. I’m definitely interested.
— Speaking of, read Danielle’s write-up on Chikara. I haven’t been to one of their shows but I want to with all my heart. Also, she makes Lil Boosie jokes in her Impact reviews so she’s the best.
Worst: Savio Vega Is Caribbean Seth Rollins
Savio Vega doesn’t understand the Ethnic Promo Sandwich:
The Bun: Bilingual catchphrase that reminds everyone that you’re not “from here” but makes them feel cool about chanting along.
The Meat: Whatever the hell he has to talk about (probably a match involving another ethnic wrestler or a White guy who hates ethnic wrestlers or his momma).
The Bottom Bun: Saying something in his native language that he later translates really loudly even though we probably know what the words mean anyway.
Savio Vega didn’t quite get the memo and he just put like five bottom buns on the sandwich.
“Y’KNOW WHAT I’M GONNA WIN AGAINST JUSTIN HAWK BRADSHAW AND I’LL BEAT HIM UNTIL HE SAYS GRACIAS WHICH MEANS THANK YOU THEN HE WON’T KNOW WHAT’LL HAPPEN TO HIM NO SE WHICH MEANS I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I’M FROM PUERTO RICO WHICH TRANSLATES TO PUERTO RICO BECAUSE IT’S A PROPER NOUN”
Best: Savio Vega Is To Strap Matches What Kofi Kingston Is To Battle Royals
But hot dammit if Savio Vega can’t put on a good strap match. If he only had strap matches for his entire career, Savio Vega would be the greatest wrestler ever. He’s like Kofi Kingston in battle royals and Street Fighter Vega in states with cages on them. I don’t know if it’s just the way he does this Matrix-like spin in the air when he gets denied the fourth turnbuckle or just the brutality of the matches but Vega has had great strap matches with the Ringmaster and now Justin Hawk Bradshaw. Okay, “great” is an overstatement but I was thoroughly entertained.
I think Zeb Coulter’s Yosemite Sam beard adds half a star to any match, too.
Best: E-C-Dub! x 100
I legit forgot about the ECW Invasion Angle: The Phantom Menace starting during this match so I was genuinely surprised by Sandman spitting beer at Vega and the crowd going banana sh*ts over it. The best part, though, is Vince McMahon’s commentary: “a local wrestling group wants to make a name for themselves.” Lulz.
They totally played this angle pitch perfectly. The only thing that would have been better would be for Vince to have totally ignored the interference, but I’m sure it was harder to let the fans figure out what was going on before Google and Twitter so he had to do a little explaining. Still, the site of the ECW guys in WWF in the way they showed up is still spectacular to watch. It’s like when Gen 13 and Wildcats showed up in the Heroes Reborn world and…you know what. Nevermind.
Best: Get In. Get Out.
Remember WrestleMania 28 when Jerrly Lawler and Michael Cole had a 20 minute match that was basically Lawler beating Cole up until we all got bored and fell asleep? Or the Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon match at WM 26 that was maybe 15 minutes long and 17 minutes longer than it should have been? Jim Cornette vs. Shawn Michaels’ Birdman is exactly what it should be. A quick exhibition that wraps up their feud that’s now been abandoned since Shawn Michaels banished Vader to the mid-card. We get three minutes and we get to see Cornette – who looks like a Bred 11 style Cadburry Egg – get his comeuppance. This is the easiest thing to do, guys. I wonder if these garbage matches are just getting longer by the year and we’ll get a Byron Saxton vs. Alex Riley Iron Man match by WrestleMania 40.
Riley would probably just think he’s wrestling Booker T anyway.
Worst: Looking Your Own Mortality In The Face
Sable vs. Sunny was like the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels feud for women minus the backstage fights that I know of and one person accusing the other of banging Sunny because that’d be weird. Still, they were the top dogs in their division and there seemed to be a competition going on. And while Sunny was Sunny and a way better talker than Sable, the writing was on the wall. This image is a woman realizing that her prosthetic leg thingy and gadgets can only get her so far and Bane is right around the corner.
Yes, I just sort of called Sable Bane. Wanna make something of it?
Best: The Holy Trinity
If you took a scan of my heart, it might show a picture of Pillman, Owen Hart and Steve Austin in the ring together cutting promos. The makeshift anti-Bret Hart clique (Hartbreakers? Hartbusters? Working on it) really should have been a thing that kept happening, but I’m sure Pillman’s volatility and injuries might have kept that from happening. Still, these guys complement each other on the mic to perfection.
Owen is a grade-A d*ckhead being totally smarmy, sarcastic and incredible while Pillman is all YOLO. Seriously, Austin gets credit for pushing the envelope but he really said “ass” a bunch. But Pillman would probably tell Anne Frank jokes in Germany to get heat. The art is that Pillman rarely comes off as desperate when he does it, though.
Then there’s Austin, who hits the ring with the swag of a thousand suns and runs Bret Hart down with his should-be-infamous Sh*tman promo. Oh, man, it just warms the cockles of my soul to see the Hollywood Blondes together again.
Best: Vince McMahon As Danny Tanner
You what’s never not funny? When Vince McMahon is all disapproving and apologetic about foul language. I’ll always laugh when Pillman or Austin are insinuating foul language and Vince talks over them with a “OHH OKAY THAT’S UNCALLED FOR” or “WE DON’T HAVE TO GO THERE.” The best though is when we can all tell the curse words are coming and Vince just goes “aaaahhhhh okay that’s unnecessary.” It’s like he’s willing the promo from the Gorilla Position and it’s instant comedy. He’s basically disapproving TV Dad hovering over the product, which should still be happening today.
Best: Mark Henry Stars In ‘Blast From The Past’
Last time we saw Mark Henry he was learning how wrestling works as a live wrestling event was taking place. Now, he’s in a short video of Philadelphia and it looks like one of those movies where the guy has been stuck somewhere for decades and he’s getting acclimated to society. He’s all “look, guys, a bell with a crack in it. What will they think of next, America?” “People really ride these hairy animals? Now way, guys.”
Worst: Heel Jim Ross
No. None of this. I’m not ready. Pineapples.
So it seems as though this pay-per-view is taking place right in the middle of Jim Ross’ heel run where he’s introducing fake Diesel and fake Razor Ramon and it’s one of the most awkward, least-enjoyable things I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of a guy who’s such a natural heel in real life who plays such a horrible heel on TV. Also, I’ve never cared about an announce team that much to want them to dominate a match with their back-and-forth. Vince is sort of poking Ross while Ross is making ex-wife jokes and complaining about not getting respect while Perfect is waiting for someone to do a Fisherman’s suplex so he can yell a bunch.
I know it’s blasphemous to talk bad about Jim Ross the commentator but Heel Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect is an all-time crappy announce team. They’re fine when they’re actual humans but right now, they’re getting the mute button treatment.
Meh: A Match That Sort Of Just Ends
The Smoking Guns and Bulldog and Owen (The Bulldhosers for the purposes of this column) had a standard RAW tag title match, because most matches on IYH were basically matches we get on RAW every week as I’m starting to learn. Tag matches were pretty stale around this time as everyone seemed to get into the groove of the basic heel beat down/hot tag/schmoz ending. This ending, though, doesn’t even give us that. We get what feels like a rushed distraction thing where Bulldog gets the pin. Ho-hum. I guess the story here is Sunny dumping the Guns, which the match is just a set up for. Good. Now she can go manage Black Spartacus. That will end well.
Best: Mark Henry Is America
Here we are, guys. It’s Mark Henry’s first match, which is perfect to look back on since this is the day America claims its world dominance over Germany in the World Cup. A few notes:
1) His theme music sounded almost exactly like his theme song now minus the words. I got really excited about that, then I realized it was probably dubbed over by the Network. Stop playing with my feels.
2) I really want Mark Henry to murder Lawler.
3) They tease the idea that Mark Henry could have won the match with a headlock since he was so strong and by golly that actually would have been great. Imagine Henry winning matches with headlocks because he’s so incredibly strong.
4) Seriously. Just look at Mark Henry. Look at what he’s wearing. He’s also green as a Kermit The Frog meme but that’s none of my business.
Best: The Rocky Horror Hoss Fight
The badassness of the Mankind/Undertaker feud really overshadowed how sweet Goldust/Undertaker was. They sort of had an auxiliary feud that resulted in a few matches but nothing really consistent. But Goldust really brought a cool element to Undertaker and made himself look great, too. It’s only when Goldust is standing next to Taker that you realize how legitimately huge Dustin Runnels is. This feud really went a long way to showing how much physicality he had when he’s not being all Goldust-y.
The match itself is hoss fight glory, which I didn’t really expect in the beginning. I can’t say enough how much I’m learning to re-appreciate Undertaker’s 1996. It’s really the most important year of his career as this transition from Saturday Morning Slam character to someone who works within the confines of a more realistic product. Here, the sit-ups and no-selling are kept to a minimum and he’s having a straight-up wrestling match with one of the most talented guys on the roster.
Wanna know something else that’s great? Every match so far has been a clean ending. I didn’t even know this happened in the 90s.
Best: A Worked Shoot That Works
Before we get to why you’re all here, I want to talk about a moment in the Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind match that legit screwed with me. A few minutes into the match, Shawn Michaels gets whipped to the turnbuckle, turns around, looks for Mankind who wasn’t there and turns around yelling at him. Then Mankind slaps Michaels and they have a scuffle in the middle of the ring that looks real as hell. It also plays off of Michaels’ real-life tantrums he throws in the ring including him spazzing on Vader last month for not moving during an elbow drop. When you watch, it’s easy to second-guess and wonder if they’re actually fighting for a second.
Well, if you believe anything Shawn Michaels said in his Shoot Interview from back in 1999, that whole moment was Mankind’s idea because Mankind is the most brilliant person of all time. This is the definition of a worked shoot if there ever was one, not Tommy Dreamer tweeting about finger popping Dixie Carter and showing up on TV the next week. Here’s Shawn talking about the match at the 30 minute mark (surrounded by a bunch of lying ass lying).
Fast forward real quick to 2014. John Cena feuding with Bray Wyatt heading into WrestleMania. The basis of the feud was Bray Wyatt wanted to make Cena turn into a darker version of himself who now uses chairs like he’s been doing his whole career but this time it’s real. The story made zero sense especially in light of Cena always using weapons and this “dark side” story is an annual tradition. Then little possessed kids showed up and things fell off the rails completely. But even before then, it didn’t really work.
All of this is illuminated by going back to 1996 and seeing that Shawn Michaels and Mankind told that story through the course of 30 minutes. There’s the pretty boy Clique leader who wanted to moonsault and skin the cat his way into our hearts and a guy who was totally opposite who wanted to remind him that you have to actually fight to win sometimes. Sure, he had a No Holds Barred match with Diesel a few months before, but it was still cartoonish with fire extinguishers and prosthetic legs. This, though, was different. And it’s perfect. As the match progresses, Shawn gets darker, wondering how far he has to go to win. So he vertical suplexes Mankind’s knee into the steps. He slams his head into the concrete. He puts him through tables. And we learn that despite all the dancing and heartthrob BS, Shawn Michaels really just wants to win and continue being champ. He puts that title above catering to fans and being a good guy. It’s the character development that makes his eventual heel run make sense.
As for Mick Foley, his greatest gift was figuring out what a character was missing and fixing it. Rock is a soulless a-hole? Give him a buddy cop personality to give him some heart. HHH needs to look like a legit winner? Have him win a few hardcore-style matches. HBK needs some character depth and an edge? Put on what might end up being the best match of 1996 that challenges his status quo.
The best part about the match is that it stands the test of time. It’s 18 years old and it’s as crisp and compelling as it was back then. Of course the ending was trash and overbooked but it’s IYH where every main event ends in a DQ so deal with it.