TJR Retro: WWF A Cold Day In Hell 1997 Review (Undertaker vs. Austin)

TJR Wrestling

The 1997 WWF PPV reviews are back. We pick things up from where we left off April 1997 PPV entitled, “Revenge of the Taker.” On that show, the WWF Champion The Undertaker defeated Mankind to retain the WWF title. Also on the show, Steve Austin beat Bret Hart by disqualification due to the interference of Hart’s brethren in the Hart Foundation group.

Following Cold Day in Hell, Austin called out Bret Hart on Raw where Austin challenged Bret to a street fight. That led to a beatdown in the ring that saw Austin attacking Bret in the leg with the help of a steel chair. When Bret was being carted off in an ambulance, Austin was shown sitting in the front of the ambulance and he punched Bret while he was laying there. It was a shocking moment that was so very cool. Bret was out of action for a few months. In reality, Bret’s knee was bothering him and he needed a couple months off so that it could heal. It was an angle that, to this day, I’ll never forget because of the intensity that both men showed during the segments.

Austin’s DQ victory over Hart set him up for a title shot against the champion, The Undertaker. At this point, Undertaker was feuding with different people every month as they tried to solidify his role as a babyface champion who would take on all comers. This match against Austin was a babyface vs. babyface match since Austin officially became a good guy after WrestleMania. This is also the first singles PPV match between Austin and Undertaker, which makes it historic in that regard.

This card also saw Mankind and Rocky Maivia tangle for the first time on PPV. Also on the card was Ken Shamrock’s first PPV match, which was against Vader. Shawn Michaels was still out with a knee injury. If you’re keeping track, that means no Hart or Michaels on the card.

Now that you know the backstory, we might as well get to the review.

WWF A Cold Day in Hell
Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia
May 11, 1997

There was a video package to start highlighting Undertaker and Steve Austin, which would be the main event later in the show.

Our announcers are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler wishing us a happy Mother’s Day. They hype the Austin/Undertaker match as well as Ken Shamrock’s first PPV match later tonight against Vader. They also hype Ahmed Johnson versus the entire Nation of Domination.

Flash Funk vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna
My, how times have changed. For those that don’t know, Funk has wrestled all over the world as 2 Cold Scorpio. When the WWF signed him, they gave him the Flash Funk name and also a snazzy entrance complete with “Funkettes.”

Lockup to start. Flash drives him back into the corner. Kick by Flash, shoulder tackle, into the ropes, leapfrog and Funk gets a hiptoss and armbar. The ring sounds REALLY loud. Maybe because the crowd is dead. They show the five front row seats bought by the Hart Foundation later in the show. Forearms get Hunter out of the armbar, Flash flips out of a whip into the ropes and gets a dropkick that sends HHH to the floor. To the top, he comes off the ropes with a clothesline on the floor. Baseball slide misses, Hunter grabs the ref and Chyna drills Flash in the back, sending him down. Back in the ring, Flash fights back with some fists, but a whip into the corner is turned into a knee smash. Hunter charges in with the high knee. There are his knee moves. Hunter chops him in the corner, then stomps and punches him down to the mat. Chyna gets a forearm shot to the face as the ref is distracted by HHH. He gets two. Vertical suplex by Triple H. Running knee to the face for two. He grabs a chinlock. Flash fights out, so Hunter buries a knee to the ribs. Into the ropes, HHH gets ANOTHER high knee. Yawn. Right hand to the chest with Flash on the apron and a few more. Hunter gets a running knee that sends Flash off the apron to the floor. To the top, Hunter gets a foot to the face on the way down. The crowd finally wakes up to cheer Flash. He gets some punches to the gut, then a leg sweep. Back body drop and a clothesline. Springboard legdrop gets two for Flash. To the top, cross body for Flash. Into the corner, HHH does a Flair bump upside down. Funk to the top, but gets crotched with his face facing the crowd. Belly to back suplex off the top that Flash takes on his chest. Pedigree for the one, two, three at 10:06.
Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley by pinfall

Post match, Chyna picks up Flash and crotches him over the top the rope just for fun.

Analysis: *1/4 The match was pretty slow the whole way through. There was no feud heading in and it showed because the crowd was dead through most of it. Hunter was a bigger name, so it was obvious he was going to win. He would have a big night at King of the Ring one month later too.

They show highlights of Ken Shamrock in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). JR talks to Shamrock, who is on the video wall. He says he’s focused and he’s in the zone. He tells Vader it’s “knuckle up” time.

Mankind vs. Rocky Maivia
Mankind comes out first. They show his battles with Undertaker. Rocky says this match is about his determination. I have almost forgotten about his theme music. Damn, it was bad.

Rocky starts out with some rights, a back body drop, a dropkick and a clothesline that sends Mankind out. There are your basic moves. Mankind pulls him out to the floor, tossing him headfirst into the ring mat. Back in the ring, Rock gets a powerslam off a whip in the ropes. Elbow misses, so he grabs an armbar. Knee to the arm. Back up, Mankind fights out of it with punches, but when he charges Rocky, he gets his legs swept out by Rocky. He shoves Rocky out. Mankind on the apron and he comes off onto Rocky with a flip that sends them both down. He slides back in. Crowd is DEAD, again. Back in the ring, he pounds Rock in the corner and then hits the running knee into the turnbuckle. He gouges the eyes. Into the other corner, Mankind misses a charge. Double clothesline sends them both down. Rocky throws him out to the floor. He follows him out and knocks him down on the ramp with a flurry of punches. Rock Bottom on the steel ramp! Damn! That came out of nowhere and looked very brutal. They didn’t call it a Rock Bottom at that time. He rolls him back in for two. He goes to whip Mankind in, but he falls down on the run across. Side belly to belly for Rocky gets two. Off the ropes, Mankind gets a short clothesline. Rocky gets a quick cradle for two. Clothesline to the back by Rocky. The crowd is still quiet. Shoulder breaker by Rocky. He goes up to the top and hits a crossbody off the top. Mankind rolls through with the Mandible Claw! Rocky is out. Mankind wins by submission at 7:28.
Winner: Mankind by submission

Analysis: *3/4 The match was boring until the last two or three minutes, which saved it from being really bad. Foley’s bumping is wild as usual, but Rock was too green at this point to do a whole lot. The Rock Bottom on the ramp was huge. Obviously, both guys went on to have HUGE careers after this match. I still think it’s fun to look back on matches like this to see how they improved as characters and in ring wrestlers. Foley was obviously good at this point while Rock had a long way to go.

Next up is Ahmed Johnson’s battle against all three members of the Nation of Domination. He must run a gauntlet through Crush, Savio Vega and Faarooq. If Ahmed wins, the Nation splits up.

The Nation of Domination made their entrance. There’s D-Lo Brown looking HUGE as part of the group. As the Nation is in the ring, Todd Pettengill interviews Ahmed Johnson. Like usual, it’s incoherent. He says he wants Faarooq to be up first.

Ahmed gets a pretty good pop when he comes out. The first good pop in the first 35 minutes of this show. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon tells the Nation they have to start the match now. He kicks the rest of the Nation, about eight guys, out of there. Crush is up first.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Crush
Crush attacks from behind, but Ahmed decks him with a fist. Scissors kick for Johnson. The Nation is watching at the top of the ramp. Bodyslam by Johnson. Elbow drop misses. Crush gets a sidekick. Crush gets a HORRID bodyslam. Off the middle rope, he gets a clothesline that JR calls hard, but I call it crappy. He gets two with that. He clasps Ahmed’s shoulder. Uh, okay. Rest spots already. Crush gets a suplex for two. Front suplex by Johnson gets two. Crush gets a sleeper. This is one of the longest, most boring sleepers I have ever seen. Let it end! Please! After about two minutes, Ahmed breaks out. Crush gets a knee to the gut. He signals for the rest of the Nation to come, but they just stay the top. Another knee is reversed into a cradle for two for Johnson. Crush knocks him down and hits a VERY UGLY piledriver. He asks the Nation to help again. He sets up Ahmed for the Heart Punch (you guessed it, a punch to the heart), but Ahmed fights out and hits a spinning heel kick for the one, two, three at 5:32.
Winner: Ahmed Johnson by pinfall

Analysis: 1/2* Just horrible. The only reason it’s above DUD is because it ended clean and the finish was well done. It’s certainly better than seeing the worst finisher ever: The Heart Punch. Ahmed is a horrible worker, but Crush was worse here.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Savio Vega
Vega is up next in the challenge. He tries to attack from behind, but Johnson fights back with a back body drop for two. He gets two clotheslines. Johnson gets whipped into the ropes as Savio charges in with a spinning heel kick that sends Johnson down face first. Vega goes after the ribs to keep him down. He drapes his leg over his neck on the middle rope. Whip into the turnbuckle headfirst. More stomping by Vega. Please, do something good! Just once! Vega gets a big right to the face. In the corner, he blatantly chokes Johnson. Crowd wakes up so Vega snap mares him over and applies a neck vice. Maybe the worst submission move ever. Johnson fights back with fists and a hip toss takeover. Ahmed to the middle ropes and he comes off with something that misses. Vega back in control with fists until Johnson comes back. Corner splash is missed by Vega leading to a back suplex by Johnson for two. Into the ropes, Johnson gets a huge powerslam for a long two. He signals for the Pearl River Plunge, so Vega slides out. He runs around the ring, then drills Johnson with a sidekick to the face. He gets a chair, then jams into the throat of Johnson. Ref throws the match out as a disqualification after 6:01.
Winner: Ahmed Johnson by disqualification

Analysis: DUD. Dud is a word, but crap is a better word to describe this. Yep, it was even worse than the match before it. Just kicks and rest holds with no story whatsoever.

Following the DQ, Vega sends Johnson back in. He hammers him with some more chair shots to the side.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq
Johnson is out, so Faarooq slaps him in the back of the head. Johnson comes back with a rollup for two. Faarooq back up with a takedown and forearm. He charges in, but Ahmed kills him with a HUGE spinebuster. He sets him up for the Pearl River Plunge. He hits it, but is too hurt to cover right away. He takes about ten seconds and covers, but Faarooq gets out of it. Faarooq gets a chop block to the back of the knee on Johnson. Dominator by Faarooq gets the victory after 2:00.
Winner: Faarooq by pinfall

Analysis: 1/2* At least this one had some big moves in it. If I were to combine all three, I would give it 1/2*. It was bad from start to finish with the story being that Johnson couldn’t overcome the heels due to Johnson having to wrestle three matches. It was very boring.

They show clips from the previous edition of Raw where Vader beat Goldust and then started talking trash to Ken Shamrock, who was announcing at ringside. Vader spits on him, so Shamrock charges and they brawl.

Backstage, Pettengill interviews Vader. They show a clip from earlier in the night when Vader and Mankind attacked Shamrock. Vader says Shamrock knows nothing about pain and the power of Vader. It’s Vader time.

Ken Shamrock vs. Vader
Vader comes out first to good heat. Shamrock gets a huge pop. This was his first real match in the WWF, so the fans were anticipating his debut. You can win by submission or knockout only. No pinfalls.

Feeling out process to start. Shamrock gets some kicks to the legs, but then he backs off. Vader gets a punch to the gut. His bearhug attempt is turned into a wristlock by Shamrock, so Vader grabs ropes to break. Vader drives him to the corner, but Shamrock escapes. Vader gets ropes again as Shamrock has a waistlock on. More kicks by Shamrock lead to a waistlock and a takedown for Shamrock. Vader rolls to the floor. Vader comes back in with punches, but Shamrock reverses and hits a stiff German suplex. He follows up with some forearm shots to the face. Vader rolls out to the floor again. He slowly comes back in, scores with some headbutts, whip in, but Shamrock reverses into a leglock. Vader rolls out again to loud boos. He comes back in and is greeted by more kicks to the legs. Shamrock gets a headlock, so Vader picks him up and tosses him. Vader hits him with a hard clothesline that sends him down. Armbar for Vader. Shamrock rolls out of it, then gets an armbar of his own. Vader picks him up in the hold and tosses him over his head to the mat. Vader picks him up in a suplex position and tosses him straight out to the floor! What a cool visual that was as Shamrock takes the bump leg and knee first. Vader meets him on the floor with a headfirst toss into the steps. More body shots from Vader followed by another headfirst bump into the steps. Comeback attempt by Shamrock is thwarted by Vader.

Back in the ring, Vader whips him across and Shamrock takes the bump hard. Vader with an anklelock variation. Shamrock fights out, so Vader hits a chokehold that gets countered quickly by Shamrock. In the corner now, Vader gets some hard shots, a whip across and a big splash in the turnbuckle. Slam by Vader. He goes up for the moonsault, which he misses. That almost always happens. Still a cool visual. More kicks to the legs by Shamrock followed by some knees. Powerslam by Shamrock. Leglock is broken by Vader as he grabs the ropes. More kicks to the legs by Shamrock, who sets in for a single leg crab. Vader gets to the ropes again. Knees to the face by Shamrock along with some hard forearms. Vader fights out with a massive forearm shot to the face. Vader walks over to him, so Shamrock grabs the leg into an ankle lock/leg variation that forces Vader to tap out at 13:01.
Winner: Ken Shamrock by submission

Analysis: *** It was a solid match and the best one on the show at this point. It was the kind of match that some fans would love while others wouldn’t because of its uniqueness. Personally, I sit in the middle. I like the submission based wrestling. However, it didn’t work too well here. The crowd popped for some submission moves while doing nothing for others. It was tough for them to know what was a big submission hold and what was just a transition move. I think they accomplished their goal, which was to bring Shamrock in as a killer from the start. Vader losing didn’t hurt him too much since they were doing very little with him at this point anyway. I really liked both guys. The story goes that Vader legitimately had trouble walking due to all the kicks to the legs that Shamrock did. Obviously, Shamrock would learn to work safer in the future.

They show the empty seats at ringside reserved for the Hart Foundation. Todd Pettengill interviews Steve Austin backstage. Austin says he’ll take all five members of the Hart Foundation on by himself. He says hell will freeze over tonight. As he walks off, they show a clip from Raw two weeks ago where Austin hits a stunner on Undertaker. Undertaker hits a chokeslam that Pettengill calls a “Tombstone Piledriver” because he’s an idiot. Ah, I miss that guy.

WWF Title: The Undertaker vs. Steve Austin
Austin comes out first to a huge pop. Undertaker gets the usual five-hour entrance to a huge pop of his own. They have a long staredown. That gets interrupted, however, by the Hart Foundation walking down the aisle. There they are. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Brian Pillman and Bret Hart in a wheelchair. Bret’s selling the knee injury he received from Austin a month before. They take their seats.

Austin charges Undertaker to start. He gets punches and kicks, but Undertaker fights back with some of his own. Into the ropes, Austin ducks out of the ring to pull Owen Hart over the railing. Undertaker tosses Austin into the steps. Then he heads over Owen and knocks him back in his seat. Crowd loves it. Back in, Austin takes advantage with some clubbering. Into the ropes, clothesline misses and Taker gets a flying clothesline for two. Armbar, shoulder blocks lead to the top rope clothesline for two. Austin gets a thumb to the eye, then a side headlock that keeps Undertaker down. Rollup gets two for Taker as the crowd is DEAD quiet. Why grab a headlock so soon? Austin still grabs the headlock and it lasts for two minutes or so. Undertaker whips him into the ropes, shoulderblock by Taker and another Austin side headlock takeover. They take the time to have Lawler explain why he loves the Harts because they realize the fans are stupid. After the headlock, Taker gets a backdrop, but Austin follows up with a clip to the knee. He pounds away in the corner. Undertaker stops him and pounds him in the corner. Austin rolls out to the floor near the Harts. He pulls Taker down and wraps Taker’s knee around the post three times. Undertaker blocks another attempt by having Austin go headfirst into the ropes.

Back in, Austin gets a trip and works on the left knee by dropping all his weight across it. Knee to the face. He stomps away at the left knee, but Taker fights back with fists. Tombstone attempt is reversed by Austin into an STF, which is one of my favorite submission moves. Undertaker gets to the ropes after about 45 seconds. Austin gets a couple of hard elbows to the face. He goes to drop his weight on the knee again, but Taker reverses it by kicking Austin over the top to the floor. He follows up by slamming Austin’s head into the steel steps. Undertaker gets a take down, then some elbows to the left knee of Austin. He holds onto the knee. Austin fights out of it with a barrage of rights. Undertaker sits up, then kicks the back of the knee. Undertaker sinks in a half Boston Crab. Austin makes it to the ropes. He rolls out, so Taker rolls him back in. Into the ropes, big boot misses and Austin gets a leg takedown of his own. Austin wrenches the knee. Undertaker kicks out of it. Austin slams Taker’s right knee against the edge of the ring apron. He drops a couple of elbows to the head for two. The crowd is pretty quiet. Suplex by Austin for two. Undertaker with an armbar and sidekick sends Austin down. Armbar, to the top, but this time Austin hits him in the leg and Taker gets crotched on the top rope. You don’t see that countered too often. Superplex by Austin is reversed into a front suplex for Taker. Elbow misses, Austin gets two. Sleeper for Taker reversed into a jawbreaker that the crowd pops HUGE for because it’s almost a stunner. That gets two. Undertaker fights out with some fists that sees Austin get pounded down in the corner. Low blow by Austin is seen by referee Earl Hebner. He yells at Austin for it. When Hebner turns his back, Austin flashes the middle fingers to the back of his head. Undertaker gets a blatant low blow of his own. Austin complains about it to Hebner, but all he gets in return is the double bird and a loud “fuck you” by Hebner. Chokeslam for Undertaker. Austin rolls out to the apron near the Harts. Taker follows and gets his neck draped across the top. Stunner by Austin! He goes for a cover, but the bell starts ringing before the ref can count. It’s Brian Pillman ringing the bell. They yell at Pillman. Undertaker sits up, Austin tries to keep him down, but gets whipped into the ropes. Tombstone by Taker reversed into a Tombstone for Austin, but THAT is reversed to a Tombstone by Undertaker for the pinfall at 20:09.
Winner: Undertaker by pinfall

Analysis: ***1/2 A very hot finish really helped this one. The first ten minutes were pretty slow as Austin hung onto a headlock for way too long. The work on the knees was fine except that Austin didn’t go for a submission during any of it aside from that one STF. A Sharpshooter would have been perfect with the Harts sitting there watching. The last ten minutes of the match were hot pretty much the whole time. Neither guy was in a clear advantage, so the brawling sessions fit in nicely. They would have better matches with eachother in the future, as well as worse ones, so this one stands out nicely as the first main event between these two.

Post match, the Hart Foundation comes in the ring to pound on the Undertaker. Four of them are on Undertaker. Neidhart shoves Hebner away. Austin sees Bret alone in the crowd. Austin tips over the wheelchair, steals a crutch and chases the heels out of there. Taker chokeslams Owen for good measure as the Hart Foundation leaves. Undertaker poses with the belt, but when he turns around Austin hits him with a Stunner to a big pop. The show ends with Austin chasing the Hart Foundation as Undertaker chases after Austin.

Analysis: That was a hot ending to the show. It made me interested in what was to come on Raw and in the weeks ahead. You can see that they were building to some good programs in the summer, which is exactly what happened because the shows were starting to get better around this point.

The event had a run time of 1:45:57 on WWE Network.

Final Thoughts
On the 1-10 scale I’ll give this event a 5 out of 10.

The main event lived up the standard of being a good match, but it wasn’t a great one. Austin was on a roll at this point. Undertaker was doing well too. As I’ve said, they had better and worse matches in the future. This one stands out, however, as being the first PPV match between them.

The Nation of Domination’s feud with Ahmed Johnson was absolutely horrible. The gauntlet was a good idea on paper, but the execution of it was not fun to watch.

This was one of those events that was just sort of there. There was nothing on here that jumps out at you as being awesome. What it did was provide storyline advancement in the case of some feuds and solid victories for two people, Triple H and Mankind, that would be seeing more of eachother in the future.

Three Stars of the Night

  1. Steve Austin– Great performance. You could see how he was really coming into his own here.
  2. Mankind– He tried amazingly hard to make Rocky look like gold. His bumps were good, but also scary.
  3. Undertaker– He had a solid main event match with Austin.

A below average show that needed a show stealing type of match to make it anything special. I would recommend Shamrock/Vader and Austin/Taker, but the rest is mostly skippable.

Next Up: WWF King of the Ring from June 1997.

Please let me know what you think of these reviews and feel free to offer any suggestions too. Thanks for reading.

John Canton


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