I am posting this here on TJRWrestling because it’s a review that I wrote many years ago before I started the site and I still had my review on my laptop. I have written reviews of the rest of the 1997 PPVs through Survivor Series in November, so I plan on posting them here.
Here’s my WrestleMania 13 review if you want to read about the PPV before this featuring the Hart/Austin classic: https://tjrwrestling.net/tjr-retro-wwe-wrestlemania-13-review/
I think I wrote this around 2003 or so. I’ve improved as a writer since then, so I apologize if it is a bit sloppy at times. Enjoy.
Following WrestleMania 13, The Undertaker was the WWF World Champion. He defeated Sid for the belt at WM13, so this was Taker’s first time as a babyface world champion. His first feud came against Mankind, an opponent he was very familiar with from their long rivalry in 1996.
Meanwhile, Bret Hart and Steve Austin continued their feud following their classic match at WM13. The often forgotten rematch took place here. Hart turned heel officially at WrestleMania and the next night on Raw, he formed the Hart Foundation with his brother Owen and his brother in-law, the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Owen and Davey were the tag team champions at the time.
Also on the card, a plucky young babyface named Rocky Maivia defended his Intercontinental Title against Savio Vega. Rocky had won the belt from Triple H, still a blue blood at this time, back in February ‘97. The future Mr. Stephanie McMahon wasn’t on this card although he was on his way to being a top guy within a couple of years.
It’s also worth pointing out that Shawn Michaels wasn’t involved with this event despite being a large part of the company. In February of 1997, he relinquished the World Title in his famous “losing my smile” speech. His side of the story is that he had a knee injury that prevented him from wrestling. His detractors will tell you that he was just avoiding having to lose the belt to somebody else, possibly his real life rival Bret Hart. Michaels did miss about three months of total ring time.
Lastly, this PPV was only two hours long. The end of the two-hour PPVs would come in September of 1997 when Ground Zero would be three hours long.
In Your House: WWF Revenge of the Taker
Memorial Auditorium in Rochester, New York
April 20, 1997
A video package aired highlighting the Undertaker/Mankind story, which will be the title match later on in the show.
Vince McMahon welcomes us to the show. He’s joined by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. Lawler was still at his heel best here while Ross was perfect as the expert at the table. Vince, as usual, was overdoing everything. They were a fun team for the most part although they would be better later in the year when Vince left the table.
WWF Tag Team Titles: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith vs. Legion of Doom
LOD comes out first. They show how this match came about with Owen and Bulldog playing mind games with them. The champs are out next.
Owen starts with Animal. Animal pounds him away in the corner. Big shoulderblock by Animal. Lockup, Owen gets the advantage with a kick to the gut. Animal reverses a front facelock into a toss across the ring. Tag to Bulldog, tag to Hawk. Clothesline from Hawk, fist to the face gets two. Chops by Hawk followed by pounding away in the corner. Whip into the corner, Hawk gets a shoulderblock of his own. Bulldog reverses a whip with a clothesline. Stalling vertical suplex by Bulldog. Double axe for Owen and a Sharpshooter attempt is powered out by Hawk. Clothesline for Hawk. Tag to Animal, who gets a powerslam for two on Owen. He grabs a headlock. They show Austin arriving at the building.
Animal with some more power moves on Owen, then a tag to Hawk. He gets a very ugly splash off the top for two. Owen whips Hawk into the turnbuckle face first, he bounces off the turnbuckle back first into Owen sending them both down. Owen gets an enziguri, then a tag to Bulldog. He gets a headlock. Hawk fights out, but Bulldog buries a knee to the ribs. Tag to Owen. He gets a sleeper. Hawk fights out with a snapmare and bodyslam. Hawk goes into the ropes, so Bulldog buries a knee to the back. Owen tells him to do a powerslam. Hawk fights out, pushes Bulldog into Owen, which sends Owen to the floor. Tag to Animal. Double clothesline spot where Animal clotheslines the back while Hawk hits him in the front. Animal gets a powerslam off the second rope for the three count on Bulldog. Or not. Another ref comes down to the ring to tell the referee that the wrong man was pinned. Owen was legal, but he was never pinned. The match continues.
Owen tosses Hawk to the floor while Animal gets the advantage on Smith. Owen tags in with a spinning heel kick on Animal. Double-teaming in the corner ensues while the referee is distracted. Neckbreaker followed by a legdrop gets two for Owen. Animal gets a rollup, but Owen distracts the ref so he can’t count it. Bulldog tags in Owen. To the top, Owen misses a big splash on Animal who makes it to Hawk for the hot tag. He cleans house until Owen gets him with a forearm to the back. Double clothesline for Hawk. He heads to the floor with Bulldog while Animal works on Owen in the ring. Doomsday Device for LOD on Owen. Ref goes for the count, but Bret Hart breaks it up. The champs are disqualified at 12:20.
Winners: Legion of Doom by Disqualification. Smith & Hart Retain the Tag Team Titles
Analysis: ** The match was decent at times thanks to Owen doing his usual great work as the cowardly heel. He was terrific in that role. Nice job of building to the rematch by having the champs retain under shady circumstances. What’s sad about this match is that three of the four men involved in it have passed away. It’s really depressing when you think about that.
Backstage, Dok Hendrix interviews Owen and Bulldog. Owen says they aren’t lucky. Dok tells them that Austin has arrived. They yell at him for that because they were hoping Austin wouldn’t be there.
WWF Intercontinental Title: Rocky Maivia vs. Savio Vega
Vega comes out first accompanied by the Nation of Domination. There’s D-Lo Brown looking very fat in a suit. Rocky says he’s accomplished more in six months than he could have ever dreamed of. Rocky says Vega is in for a hell of a fight.
They start out slugging with Rocky winning most of it. Two arm drags by Rock followed by an arm bar. Faarooq walks to ringside, joining the announce team. More arm drags from Rocky, as the crowd is dead. Rocky gets some punches, Savio sends him into the corner and hits a lovely spinning heel kick that sends Rock down. Vega works on the Rock’s right shoulder, ramming it into turnbuckle and getting a vice grip on the ground. Rocky fights out with a cross body that earns him two. Vega gets in control with another vice grip on the shoulder. This lasts for a good thirty seconds. Crowd is still dead. Vega rakes the eyes. Rocky gets a quick rollup for two. Vega sends him down again. Blatant choking by Vega. Another vice grip. Damnit Savio, where’s the workrate tonight? Rocky fights out with a Fisherman Suplex for one because the ref got distracted by the then unnamed D-Lo Brown. Vega gets a kick to the back. Chops by Vega are met with a WHOO! from the crowd. Snapmare gets two. Another vice grip! This is the fourth time! Into the ropes, Rocky gets the tilt a whirl DDT for two. Vega gets a rollup, but Rocky powers out. He sends Vega shoulder first into the turnbuckle. Back suplex for Rock followed by some punches. Side belly-to-belly suplex gets two. Nobody seems to care. Rock Bottom gets two. They didn’t call it a Rock Bottom at this point. Backslide gets two. Rocky charges, so Vega throws him to the floor right into his buddy Crush. Heart punch by Crush. Rocky sells it like he’s dead. Man, that’s the worst finishing move ever. The Rock gets DQ’d after 8:42. He retains the belt. The story here is that there’s tension between Vega and Crush.
Winner: Savio Vega wins via Countout, but Rocky Maivia retains the IC title
Analysis: * This was a weak match. Vega had way better matches while Rock was still very green at this point. The crowd didn’t care about either guy at all. Two straight matches with title matches ending in DQ’s isn’t a good idea. Very lame.
After the match, the Nation starts to argue. They make up by beating the hell out of Rocky. Ahmed Johnson comes down to save Rocky from the beating. The Nation bails. This would set up a match for next month.
Backstage, Hendrix interviews Marc Mero and Sable. She thanks the fans for winning Miss Slammy. Marc says his knee is fine and he’ll be back soon. In the background, Steve Austin walks in the bathroom. Seconds later, loud banging is heard. Bulldog walks out with a tire iron, stares at the camera and runs off. Owen quickly follows with a HILARIOUS look on his face as if to say: “I didn’t do it.” The point of all this? Austin got beat up by the tag champs. I tell ya, that segment was funnier than it had any right to be.
Jesse James vs. “Rockabilly” Billy Gunn w/Honky Tonk Man
James sings his country song “With My Baby Tonight” on the way to the ring. The story was that Honky had a protege and we didn’t know who it was. Honky announces that it was Billy Gunn. Nobody really cares. Jim Ross interviews Honky at ringside. He mentions that Gunn knocked down Honky on Raw a few weeks ago. Honky said he knew Gunn was the right guy because he stood up to him.
Gunn starts out with a boot. He does a really bad dance. Kick to the knee. Arm drags by James followed by a dropkick and a clothesline to the floor. The crowd doesn’t seem to care. James gets a clothesline off the apron. He does a JJ strut back in the ring. Back in the ring, Gunn gets an eye gouge. Into the ropes, Gunn gets a Fameasser. Much like the Rock Bottom, it was just called “OH WHATTA MOVE” by Vince. He gets two. After way too much stalling, Gunn hits a neckbreaker for two. Since the match is already boring, Gunn decides to make it more boring by sinking in a reverse chinlock. James comeback is thwarted with another eye gouge. Gunn hits a back elbow. Into the turnbuckle, Gunn’s stalling forces him to miss a Stinger Splash. They’re both out. Just like the crowd is out of giving up a shit about this match. Dancing punch combo by James gives him control. He gets the ten-punch combo in the corner. Big clothesline in the corner for James. Whip in, Billy ducks and throws James out to the floor. They keep calling him “Rockabilly,” which is one of the worst names ever. Gunn goes for a suplex. It’s reversed into an inside cradle for James. He gets the victory at 6:46. James gets out of the way of a post match attack.
Winner: Jesse James by pinfall
Analysis: 1/2* This match was horrible. Why would they have Gunn job if he was debuting with a new character? Obviously, they knew the character sucked. If they knew it sucked, why even do the gimmick? Eventually, they would become the New Age Outlaws because this match proved just how bad they were as singles wrestlers
Backstage, Kevin Kelly interviews the “injured” Steve Austin along with President Gorilla Monsoon. Austin says he didn’t need medical attention, but that Bret Hart will. Gorilla says that he’s going to give Austin more time, which means Mankind/Undertaker is next while Hart/Austin is in the main event slot. Works for me!
Backstage, Lance Wright interviews Bret, Owen and Bulldog. He asks Bulldog why they attacked Austin. They say Austin tried to attack them, so they went after him. This, of course, is a lie because they were in the bathroom first. Owen rules. Bret: “You know what the bottom line is? Who’s crying now?” Good line.
Analysis: The lies of Owen and Davey were funny. I have no memory of that Lance Wright interview guy.
Long video package to start to build up the Undertaker/Mankind story highlighting the feud. Backstage, Bearer & Mankind proclaim that it will be the best day of Mankind’s life because he is going to be the World Champion. Mankind comes out first, Taker is next. Undertaker has tape near his right eye to sell the burning he received from Mankind a few weeks before on Raw.
WWF World Title: The Undertaker vs. Mankind w/Paul Bearer
Mankind jumps Taker before he can get in the ring. He gets punches. Corner whip. Undertaker overpowers him in the corner. Mankind knocks him down with punches to the eye. Clothesline over the top, but Taker no sells it. He shoves Mankind back first into the railing. And again, this time it’s the back of his head into the railing. Ouch. Taker tosses him into the crowd. They slug away with Taker in advantage. He pulls Mankind’s head into the railing once and twice. He finally rolls Mankind back in. Arm wringer, followed by shoulderblocks and the “old school” top rope clothesline is improvised as he leaps off the top into Mankind, who moved back a bit. It was more of a leaping clotheslines than he’s ever done. Paul Bearer on the apron. Ref goes over to him as does Taker. Mankind drills him with the urn. One…two…no. Good nearfall.
Mankind in control. He gets the running knee in the corner. He chokes away. Undertaker fights back, they slug and he wins that. Into the ropes, Taker ducks, neckbreaker for Mankind gets two. He grabs a vice grip. Man, haven’t seen Foley use that before. Probably because it’s a stupid move to use and Foley rules. I think I can forgive him. After about a minute, crowd starts chanting “Rest In Peace” and Undertaker fights out with punches. That’s an inspiring chant apparently. Big punch sends Mankind to the floor. Mankind pulls him out, but it’s a mistake because Undertaker rams his head into the steps. Mankind gets a pitcher of water and drills Undertaker in the head with it. They’re still on the floor. Mankind gets a chair, drills him in the head with it. The announcers are questioning why the referee is letting it go. No idea. Mankind climbs the second rope and drops the elbow onto Undertaker, who is lying on the floor. The crowd didn’t pop as much as I thought they would.
Mankind gouges at his eyes back in the ring. He bites him in the face. He kicks him out to the floor again. Back in the ring, pulling piledriver gets two for Mankind. He kicks him to keep him down, then a headbutt and another pulling piledriver. Instead of a pin, he just does the scream. Love the scream! Undertaker fights back. Into the ropes, clothesline misses for Mankind and Taker hits a leaping clothesline. He pounds away in the corner. He charges into the turnbuckle, but Mankind pulls the ref in front of him. Ref gets squashed and out to the floor. Mankind puts on the Mandible Claw. He takes Undertaker down with it. Another ref comes in, Mankind gives him the Mandible Claw. Undertaker is still out. Paul Bearer tosses in a chair. Mankind brings in the ring steps. Just as he picks up the steps, Undertaker dropkicks the steps into his face. He seizes the chair. He DRILLS Mankind with it. Damn, Foley took chairshots like nobody else. He tosses Mankind in leading to Mankind getting his head stuck in the ropes. Taker rips off his mask. Mankind’s on the apron, Undertaker grabs the ring steps and drills him in the head with it. Foley goes headfirst through the Spanish announce table! Damn! That was headfirst into the table. The replay shows that he didn’t get his hand in the way to block it very much. Back in the ring, Undertaker gets a Chokeslam. Ref back up. That gets two. Good nearfall wit the announcers acting surprised by it. Tombstone for Undertaker. One…two…three. That’s it after 17:28.
Winner: The Undertaker
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a very good World Title match. It was the usual story between these two with Undertaker overpowering Mankind while Mankind takes his usual insane amount of bumps. I had forgotten about the bumps that he took in this match. The one through the table was especially brutal. This was the first month after Undertaker’s title win and Mankind was the perfect opponent for him to defend against for his first PPV title defense. Good stuff.
After the match, Undertaker goes after Paul Bearer. Mankind got back up. Undertaker steals a lighter from Mankind and lights Paul Bearer’s face. Bearer covers his face with his jacket and gets helped out. Everybody plays it up like it’s a big tragedy. This would eventually lead to the debut of Kane.
Backstage, Dok Hendrix interviews Bret. Bret is flanked by Bulldog and Owen. Bret rips on the American fans saying it’s like a war with him against the fans. Bret says he’s beat Austin twice before and this time he’ll end Austin’s career. It’s all part of his quest to prove once again that he’s the best there is, the best there was and the best that there ever will be. As Bret walks out to the ring, Owen & Bulldog are sent to the back by a bunch of officials.
After Bret’s in the ring, Austin comes out next. The story here is Austin’s left knee got re-injured due to the attack by Owen & Bulldog earlier in the show. No posing for Austin. He jumps into the ring and they start brawling.
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
They trade punches to start us out. Austin gets the advantage. He stomps him down on his back. Into the ropes, back elbow for Austin. Suplex for Austin. Stomp to the gut for Austin. He chokes Bret over the middle rope. Bret rolls to the floor, so Austin drops a double axe on him. Austin fights him off, then tosses him back first into the steel steps. Headfirst into the steps now. Austin back in the ring, mocking Bret’s mannerisms. He comes back out, then whips Bret back first into the steps. They brawl in the aisle. Austin tosses him out into the crowd. He jumps off the railing onto Bret. He tosses Bret back into the aisle. Back in the ring, Austin gets the patented elbow off the middle rope. Bret rolls to the floor again. Austin follows. They tumble out there, Bret comes back in with a chair. Austin punches him before he could use it. Austin grabs the chair. Referee Earl Hebner tries to take it from him. Bret dropkicks the back of Austin and he knocks down Hebner. Bret grabs the chair and uses the edge of it to drill the left knee of Austin. The left knee is in the familiar brace. He took five shots at the knee. Bret picks up the ref, playing nice.
Austin back up, Bret kicks the back of the knee. Splash onto the knee. He wraps the knee on the edge of the apron. Back in, Austin tries to fight back. Bret rakes the eyes. He pulls Austin to the ringpost. Ringpost figure four! Ringpost FIGURE FOUR! YES! This is one of my favorite moves ever. Bret holds it on for ten seconds or so. Hebner forces him to break it. Bret smashes the chair into the knee three more times. Where was Hebner? I have no idea. He pulls on the leg, stretching it. Austin fights back with a clothesline and elbow drops. He picks Bret up, so Bret just kicks him in the knee. Awesome. I love heel Bret. Bret works on the knee some more, ripping the brace off. Another splash onto the knee. And another one. Austin rolls outside. Bret follows, kicking at the left knee. He grabs him by the leg, Hebner can’t see it and Bret punches him in the nuts. Back in the ring, Austin gets a blatant low blow. The ref saw it. Did nothing. Legdrop to the groin for Austin. Elbow and choke for Austin. Austin pulls off his own ring tape, then chokes Bret with it. To the middle rope, elbow misses. He stumbles down, selling the knee. Selling! What a concept! Bret goes to kicking at the knee. Love it.
Austin is on the apron, Bret comes at him. Austin drapes his head over the top rope in a stun gun type move. Austin tries to suplex him to the floor. Bret counters, suplexing Austin back in the middle. Figure four for Bret. It gets two. Austin tries to fight out of it. He turns it over, putting the pressure on Bret. He gets the ropes. Austin argues with Hebner. Bret sneaks up from behind, kicking the back of the knee. He goes for the ringpost figure four again. Austin blocks it. On the floor, Austin backdrops Bret into the crowd. He slugs away. He tosses him back on the floor, then drops him neck first onto the railing. Off the apron, Austin gets a clothesline. He limps the whole time.
Back in the ring, whip across and Bret takes his patented sternum first bump in the turnbuckle. Austin mounts him with punches. He covers for two. Back up, Bret gets a shoulderblock. Into the ropes, duck by Austin, kick to the gut. Piledriver attempt is missed. Austin’s leg buckles, so he just falls. His leg is hurt while Bret is back up. Great move there. You don’t see many guys being able to pull off that kind of “miss” of a move. More stomps from Bret onto the knee. Bret tries to whip him across. Austin can’t run across so he just falls down. Awesome stuff. More working over of the left knee. Hebner forces Bret to back off. He comes back, Austin picks him up and drops him face first into the turnbuckle. That gets two. Stunner is blocked. Fighting in the corner, Bret mule kicks him in the groin. Ref didn’t see it. To the top, Bret gets a superplex. Sharpshooter attempt by Bret. Austin grabs his knee brace and smacks Bret in the face with it. He puts the Sharpshooter on Bret! Hebner is ready to ring the bell. Bulldog and Owen come in. Austin breaks the hold to knock them down. Refs come down to get rid of Bulldog and Owen again. Austin gets the Sharpshooter again. Crowd is going nuts. Bulldog comes in with a chair to the back of Austin. Hebner signals for a disqualification. Match is officially a disqualification at 20:12.
Winner: Steve Austin by Disqualification
Analysis: ****1/4 It was yet another example where these two stole the show with the match the night. With a more decisive finish this one could have approached the five-star level. Since it was a DQ, it hurt it a bit. While this one wasn’t on the level of their classics at Survivor Series 1996 and WrestleMania 13, it was still a really solid match between two of the best ever. The story of the match was Austin’s injured left knee being worked on by Bret. The comebacks by Austin were fantastic as was the blatant cheating that Bret utilized throughout. Bret cheating like that wasn’t something the fans were used to. He had been a babyface wrestler for at least six years by this point. It was different to see him act like this. It was refreshing too. Change is always good, especially when you’ve got wrestlers as good as these two. Austin did his part by selling the knee injury the ENTIRE time. He sold it when he did moves, when he took moves and after the match. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Selling is a lost art in wrestling these days. Austin, however, did an outstanding job of it.
After the match, the refs get rid of Bulldog. Austin grabs a chair, then rolls back in the ring. Bret walks outside, grabs the ring bell. He goes to smash Austin with it. Austin blocks it with the chair, slamming the bell into Bret’s right knee. Crowd goes nuts! Chair to the knee by Austin. He stomps away on the knee. Sharpshooter by Austin. Crowd is going crazy. Five refs are trying to pull Austin off. Eventually they do it. Bulldog and Owen come in to take Bret out of the ring. The show ends with Austin posing in the ring. This was just part of the beginning of his rise as the top babyface in the company.
Analysis: The post match attack by Austin was intense. In real life, Bret had a knee injury at the time that would require him to sit out for a few months. This attack by Austin was the start of that time off. The next night on Raw, these two participated in what was one of the best moments in Raw history. Austin called Bret out to the ring, challenged him to a street fight and proceeded to beat the hell out of Bret’s knee with help from a chair. When Bret was being loaded into the ambulance, Austin was sitting in the driver’s seat of the ambulance and proceeded to beat the hell out of Bret while he was on the stretcher. It was a wonderful angle that did a lot to help BOTH characters. I could write a zillion more words praising this feud and these two men. The work they did was unforgettable. It’s over 20 years old and I remember it all like it was yesterday.
This show had a run time of 1:50:29 on WWE Network.
On the 1-10 scale I’ll give this event a: 6.
I felt that the first hour was poor. The opening tag match was about as good of a match that the LOD were going to have at that point in their careers. Owen and Bulldog did well, but I don’t think they could have done any better. The DQ finish was just a preview of what was to come later in the show.
The other two matches in the first hour were atrocious. Thankfully, Rock improved. It was also the first hint of the New Age Outlaws, so that was a good sign. Sort of.
The last two matches saved the show. What you had there were four of the best characters in WWF history at their best. This year, 1997, was one of the best years of the Undertaker as far as having good matches go. He was healthy, he was over and he was obviously in good shape. Mick Foley was his crazy, usual self as well. This match was a brutal brawl that was all over the place. A lot of fun to watch. They accomplished their goal here, which was to make Undertaker look strong against a quality opponent.
The man event was fan-f’n-tastic as usual. Any time Bret Hart & Steve Austin were involved in a match, it would rock. There is no doubt about it. Whenever they were against eachother they always clicked. They’re both smart wrestlers who know the business inside and out. When your third best PPV match with a guy is at the excellent level of ****1/4 then you know you’ve got something special working. I can’t say it enough. These are two of the best wrestlers from ANY era. I love their work.
Oh and did I mention Rockabilly sucked? Yeah, I think so.
Five Stars of the Night
- Steve Austin This was his first ever main event as a singles wrestler in the WWF. He delivered. As usual.
- Bret Hart – This night was the early stages of what became my favorite heel in wrestling history. How can you not love heel Bret Hart? He was just too good.
- Mankind– The bump machine does it again. That headfirst fall through the announce table was pretty damn crazy.
- The Undertaker – He had a good showing as the babyface WWF Champion that kept on fighting against a relentless opponent like Mankind.
- Owen Hart – There wasn’t really anybody else that stood out, so I’ll put Owen here.
Thanks for reading.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org